Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant of Dorset, Mrs Anthony Pitt-Rivers, extended a warm welcome to some 80 competitors from 12 countries as she officially opened the 2013 International 2.4 Metre World Championships at the Poole Yacht Club today (Monday 9 September).
Mrs Pitt-Rivers was joined by the Mayor of Poole, Cllr Philip Eades, plus other VIP guests as sailors from as far afield as Australia, the USA and Scandinavia enjoyed the traditional ceremonial flag raising accompanied by the Poole Sea Cadet Band.
The 2.4mR World Championships are unique in that they pit able-bodied and disabled sailors racing side-by-side on a level playing field. Because of the design of the boat anyone, regardless of age or ability, can lift the Worlds trophy.
The youngest competitor at this year's Worlds is 17 and the oldest 75, while among the entrants is the London 2012 Paralympic champion, Helena Lucas.
Mrs Pitt-Rivers said, "I'd like to extend my welcome on behalf of the county of Dorset for this World Championship event. There is a wonderful mix of nationalities and abilities here and it's good to see you are all competing on an equal footing. I'm delighted this very important event is happening in the UK for the first time since 1994 and that it is being hosted here in Dorset by the Poole Yacht Club."
Paul Kragset, outgoing President of the International Class Association, said, "I think this event will be very fine. The preparations have been excellent and the sailing venue is very good. I think this will be a great week."
Amongst the other VIP guests for the opening ceremony were John Derbyshire, RYA Racing Manager and Performance Director, and Richard Lacey, Chairman Poole Harbour Commissioners. Laurence Thornton-Grimes, Commodore of the Poole Yacht Club, got the opening ceremony formally underway.
Around 100 volunteers, the majority coming from Poole Yacht Club and the local area, are supporting the event and event director, John Yonwin, admitted organisers have tipped their hat to the success of London 2012 in terms of its volunteers.
"The Olympics were a success partly because of the spirit of friendliness, openness and helpfulness the volunteers put into the event,"
Yonwin said. "One or two of us have made quite a study of how that worked, and we have tried to replicate those good practices here."
Australia's London 2012 representative, Matt Bugg, has travelled the furthest distance, hailing from Hobart, Tasmania. Bugg and the rest of the Australian team arrived in the UK over a month ago and have spent time in Ireland around the IFDS World Champioships as well as familiarising themselves with Dorset for this event.
Bugg said, "I did the UK Tidal Nationals here a few weeks ago, the weather's been beautiful, the wind's been fantastic and the people here have been great. The venue's quite shallow so it gets choppy very quickly and also there's a lot of tide so as soon as there's any wind it gets lumpy really quickly. But it gets lumpy a lot where I sail at home so I'm quite used to these conditions and have been really enjoying it."
For six-time 2.4mR class World Champion, Stellan Berlin (SWE), Poole also presents a new challenge. Having just missed out on a seventh world crown last year - settling for silver behind fellow Swede, Peter Andersson - Berlin has his eye on one thing. "I'm always going for the gold
," he laughed. "I'm sailing good, I was very happy with the practice race today. It was very shifty, both the wind direction and the wind speed so it makes it very interesting."
The British Sailing Team's Megan Pascoe won bronze at last year's Worlds in Italy and the Rio 2016 hopeful admits as well as trying to improve on that result, she is looking forward to taking part in this unique event once again.
She said, "Everything seemed to click last year, I was going like a rocket and tactically I got it right. The whole event just came together. Somewhere up there would be good again but it's a very, very good fleet, we have five or six past World Champions here. It's the mix of people that makes this event so special. It really doesn't matter who you are you really can come out and compete on a level playing field."
As well as sailors, coaches and volunteers the Poole Yacht Club also welcomed the first pupils from local schools for the innovative 2013 2.4mR Worlds Schools Initiative that is running every day throughout the Championships.
Participating schools are exploring the subjects of inclusivity and equality and introducing the pupils to sailing. Pupils have done event-related project work, are spending time at the club, taking part in lessons on topics such as meteorology, physics, health and literature, while also meeting competitors and watching racing.
Racing at the 2013 International 2.4mR World Championships gets underway tomorrow (Tuesday 10 September) and runs until Friday. Three races are scheduled per day, and the first warning signal is scheduled on Tuesday at 09:55. For more details about the 2013 International 2.4mR Class World Championships visit www.24mworlds2013.co.uk
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