Australia’s Paralympic sailors have won a Gold and a Bronze medal in the Skud 18 class on the penultimate day of the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Weymouth, England.
Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch won their second straight ISAF Sailing World Cup Gold medal following their victory in Miami in January, while Jamie Dunross and Rachael Cox won Bronze in their first international regatta together.
Fitzgibbon, who won Silver at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games, and Tesch, a three-time Paralympic Games medalist in Wheelchair Basketball, only teamed up at the start of this year and dominate the regatta in Weymouth from start to finish, winning by four points.
“We had a really consistent regatta and were always up there and competitive in every race,” said Fitzgibbon. “We’ve got our World Championships here in a couple of weeks and this win is a confidence booster before that, where we’re going to have a fight on our hands against the other two Australian crews, we’re all very competitive out there.”
For Tesch the win continues her amazing start to high performance sailing, after only sailing a Skud 18 for the first time at the beginning of the year.
“We’re rocking and rolling here and had a really, really, awesome week,” said Tesch. “To get off the plane and straight into the boat was always going to be a challenge but we’ve pulled it off really nicely.”
Tesch is also looking forward to the challenge of the upcoming IFDS World Championships.
“For me the World Championships are not a World Championships, they’re a qualifying event for the Australian Paralympic team and that’s what I’m putting my mind to,” she said. “The Australian camp could go one, two and three at the Worlds, we certainly have the potential and it’s awesome to train against those guys, though it’s a bit weird when you turn around out there on the race course and you’re competing against each other for that one spot at the Games.”
Dunross and Cox were hot on the heels of their fellow Australians all regatta with the Bronze medalists finishing in the top six in every race, an impressive result in their first event as a team.
“Jamie and I only got together as a team back in January and we’ve been training at home in Perth but haven’t had any international competition until now,” said Cox. “After this week it’s good to know that we’re at the top end of the fleet, we’ve just got a couple of places higher to go at the next regatta.
“We’ll be training a lot before the next regatta and are in a good position to chip away for a good result at the IFDS World Championships,” she said.
Fellow Australians Ame Barnbrook and Lindsay Mason finished the week fifth after two fourth positions on the final day.
While the Paralympic classes finished their regatta on Friday the 10 Olympic classes will battle it out for medals on Saturday with Australian Sailing Team members in the hunt in three classes.
49er crew Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen continued their strong form in Weymouth with another good day on the water to open up a 17 point lead heading into the final medal race, meaning they just need to ensure they don’t finish last and the second placed French team doesn’t win to take their third straight Gold medal at this event.
“This being the Olympic venue everyone wants to get the win,” said Jensen. “For us to potentially do it three years in a row is a great thing, when we started out together we didn’t think we were going to win here every time but it’s great looking forward to the Games that we’ve had success here.”
The Australian Women’s Match Racing Team crew of Nicky Souter, Jessica Eastwell and Lucinda Whitty ended the regatta eighth overall after losing narrowly in the quarter-finals.
Souter and crew pushed the French team led by Claire Leroy the whole way, coming from behind twice to force a fifth and final race, eventually missing out on a spot in the semi-finals by the smallest of margins.
Brendan Casey finished the day 24th in the Finn class while Tessa Parkinson and Belinda Stowell were 42nd in the 470 women.
Racing finishes at the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta on Saturday, for more information on the Australian Sailing Team, including a story featuring the results of all Australians competing, visit www.australiansailingteam.com.au.
Image courtesy of Australian Sailing