119 of the world’s best sailors will gather in The Netherlands later this month for the 2002 IFDS World Disabled Sailing Championship from 22 – 27 September.
Held in the two Paralympic events - the single-handed and crewed events, using the Sonar and 2.4mR classes, the Championship will be a telling preview of the ones to watch leading up to the Paralympic Games in Athens 2004.
The following countries are represented: Australia, Canada, Germany, England, Ireland, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, the United States, Sweden, Norway, Italy, France, Denmark, Finland, Armenia, Greece and Singapore. The IFDS World Championship is organised by the Royal Netherlands Yacht Club (KNZ&RV), which is celebrating its 155th anniversary this year.
The 2002 IFDS World Disabled Sailing Championship is also the first of the two qualification regattas for the 2004 Paralympic Regatta, being the 2002 and 2003 World Championships respectively. 2002 will see 7 slots up for grabs in the 2.4mR and 7 in the Sonar. Whilst sailors will qualify their nation for the 2004 Paralympic Regatta, they will still need to succeed at their respective national qualification in order to guarantee their place to represent their nation in 2004. The host nation, Greece, receives an automatic entry in both events.
Sailing from the International Sailing Centre in Medemblik on the fresh water of the Iseejlmeer, competitors have the option to compete in the Open Dutch Championship for Olympic and Paralympic Classes the week before. This will give everyone the opportunity to become accustomed to the conditions they will most likely meet at this world-class venue, and prepare themselves for the IFDS World Disabled Sailing Championship. The world Championship starts on 22 September, finishing with the closing ceremony on 27 September.
In the Sonar, Brian Mackie (CAN), reigning world Champion, with Brian Macdonald and Paul Tingley are amongst the favourites for the event. Both Macdonald and Tingley, along with David Williams, were members of Canada's bronze medal winning Sonar at 2000 Sydney Paralympics, and added the world championship to their personal tallies in 2001 with Brian Mackie. Great things will be expected of these three over the coming few weeks.
After a disappointing fifth place at the Paralympic Games in 2000, the 1996 Olympic Gold medallists Andy Cassell, Andrew Millband & Brian Harding (GBR) finished second at the 2001 World Disabled Championship last year. Millband is now sailing a 2.4mR, but the other two, along with Ed Suckling, although relatively new together, will prove tough to beat.
Other top contenders for the medals in this class include the German team of Jens Kroker and Peter Reichl with new team member Dietmar Steigel. After winning silver in Sydney and bronze at last year's IFDS World Championship, one has to think that they are hungry for the World Championship title. Gold medallists in Sydney, Noel Robbins and Jamie Dunross (AUS), along with Colin Harrison this year, will also be up amongst the leaders.
With 25 boats expected this will be a tough fleet and racing is bound to be tight, with any of a number of sailors capable of winning,
In the Singlehanded 2.4mR Class, of the 40 boats, all eyes will initially be turned towards Heiko Kroeger (GER). Gold medallist in Sydney and winner of every race at the 2001 World Championship, he will undoubtedly be trying to add another major event title to his array of results. Thomas Brown (USA), bronze medallist in Sydney and second at the IFDS World Championship last year, may be able to challenge Kroeger's dominance, if the conditions are to his liking.
A fantastic event is forecast. Registration of boats and classification of sailors takes place from 17 September, with the Dutch Open starting on 19 September. Racing in the World Championship starts on 22 September and with two races per day, should see a nine-race series. Michael Aylon (ISR), ISAF international Judge heads the International Jury and Michael Poulie is in charge of race management.