Published: Tuesday, 01 December 2015

Vigilance and strict observance was required on the fourth day of racing at the Para World Sailing Championships (Nov 24-Dec 3) being held out of the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria in Williamstown, Melbourne, Australia.

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(Photos: Teri Dodds)

With severe conditions in the forecast, sailors from 31 nations racing in the three classes selected for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games were expecting a tough day.

With wild swings in wind direction, crews had to be more observant than usual and ensure that they stayed in sync with the wind direction. Those who failed to do so paid a terrible price.

The SKUD18's of the USA and Israeli teams were racing against the clock to replace their broken masts in time for the morning start, while Britain's Helena Lucas had an anxious wait while a boat builder worked frantically through the night to repair a gaping hole in her boat's transom.

In the end the resources of the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria based support personnel successfully managed to have all boats back in action in time for race seven.

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The SKUD18 started race seven in eight knots of breeze from the west, with 75 per cent of the fleet electing to hold starboard tack off the start line and favour the left of the course. The British team of Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell set the early pace and rounded the top mark clear of the Italian and French crews.

Rickham and Birrell eventually took the lead with Gualandris and Zanetti (ITA) in second and Fitzgibbon and Tesch (AUS) in third.

In race eight the Australians took the top spot, followed by the British team and the Italians coming in third.

Total points scores with just three races remaining have Fitzgibbon and Tesch (AUS) leading on nine points, followed by Rickham and Birrell (GBR) on 20 and Gualandris and Zanetti (ITA) on 26.

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American Dee Smith had a field day in the 2.4mR fleet today, emerging with first and third placings. Although Frenchman Damien Seguin failed to make the top six in race seven, he won race eight to remain in contention, with Australian Kevin Cantin second.

Seguin (FRA) leads with 16 points, Germany's Heiko Kroeger has 21 with Australia's Matt Bugg on 33.

The Sonar race committee set their course for race eight in a breeze close to 15 knots, but that dropped to about half that strength at the start signal. Although the Australian boat started well in the centre of the line, they were caught in disturbed air and pinned down to prevent them from tacking away.

"It was a really difficult day out there today,” says Australian Coach Grant Alderson. "The good thing is that we still hold a comfortable lead with three races remaining and are on track.”

The penultimate day of competition will kick off on December 2.