The International Association for Disabled Sailing (IFDS) Two Person Keelboat 2008 World Championship starts today at the SAF Yacht Club, Changi Clubhouse in Singapore.
The Championships will decide the final qualification spots remaining for the 2008 Paralympic Sailing Competition. One team each are entered from Singapore, Malaysia, Phillipines, Ireland, Australia, Great Britain, Portugal and China.
Following registration, measurement and sailors’ classification over the first three days, racing continues from Sunday the 23rd to Friday the 28th. The event is being organized by the Singapore Disability Sports Council in collaboration with the Singapore Sailing Federation.
The SKUD 18 is a new boat for teams from South-East Asia. The Singapore combination of Jovin Tan and Desiree Lim showed they were competitive in only their first regatta - Sail Melbourne this January. Malaysia and Phillipines are making their debut in the SKUD at this event. Al Mustakim Matrin and Loke Sin Ying (MAS) are facing a steep learning curve, with little time to master the different techniques of a high speed skiff-style craft with asymmetric spinnaker.
Pedro Sollique and Cherrie Pinpin (PHI) have already had more excitement than they were looking for before the event started. While high speed reaching, they struck an underwater object and have destroyed their centreboard. The race is now on to have a new board installed before the practice races on Saturday.
For Paralympic competition, one of the crew must have an IFDS Functional Classification of 1 (a very severely disabled sailor), the other must have at least the minimum classifiable disability, and at least one of the crew must be female. Half of the teams at this event are being helmed by women.
The two ‘Amies’ – Amy Kelehan (IRL) and Ame Barnbrook (AUS) are both competing in Singapore with new crews. Experienced Sonar sailor, John Twomey has taken up the front seat for the Irish SKUD team and raced with his new skipper in St.Petersburg, Florida last month. Vision impaired sailor, Lindsay Mason, is having his first regatta with Ame Barnbrook after joining her ‘Rockin the Boat’ team only two months ago.
GBR sailors Judi Figgures and Val Milward have both been involved with the SKUDs since the first boats were delivered to the UK in mid 2006. Having sailed with different teams in the past, they have combined their skills in two regattas already this year – the Rolex Miami OCR and the Disabled Midwinters in St.Petersburg.
Bento Amaral and Luisa Silvano (POR) are executing a carefully planned preparation for the 2008 Paralympics. After qualifying their country at the IFDS 2007 Worlds in Rochester, USA, the team is competing in Singapore and at the Qingdao International Regatta for Paralympic classes in May.
The pairing of Jia Hai ling and Yang Xin Juan from China also competed in Rochester last September and are here to size up the competition and build on their fleet experience ahead of the Games that are just six months away.
Competition will be all the more spirited in the waters off the SAF Yacht Club, with the recent announcement that event sponsor NOL has provided a $10,000 SGD prize pool. First place will take away $5,000 – a rare and welcome bonus in an event for sailors with a disability.