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Team Sonar Ready for CowesTuesday, 11th August 2015
Team Sonar, Team GB's gold-medal hopes for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympics, are back racing in Cowes!
The trio of Hannah Stodel, John Robertson and Steve Thomas are back in Cowes for the Sonar racing this year, having missed last year because of a clash with the World Championships. There is something about Cowes that keeps them coming back whenever they have the chance - not least because they have the opportunity to get more racing under their belt when similar races in Paralympic classes are few and far between.
We gatecrashed them at the Cowes Corinthians Club, where they were discussing tactics and sail management, as well as how different the Solent tides make racing over here, when compared to the Rio sailing area, which they'll be heading back to next week. They've also managed to fit a meeting with their boat-builder into their packed schedules!?
With the racing cancelled for the day because of no wind, they had a little time on their hands to discuss just how welcoming and accessible sailing can be. They name-checked Cowes Corinthians for their evening sailing offers that get youngsters out at sea for just £15 a time, but also mentioned that they were impressed by the thousands of sailors with varying degrees of disability, who are out on the water every week, at clubs where boats and yachts have been adapted especially to bring the sport to new enthusiasts.
Paralympic sailing appears to be more of a level playing field than other sports, with sailors in all sorts of different classes - from people with missing fingers to quadraplegics - joining forces to compete against each other in just three classes - compared to 14 different classes for the 100m. You get the impression that no-one would be excluded.
Meeting the three of them, and their coach Simon Rosier, you can sense their inner-confidence that they can prevail in sailing races, and that together they can become the perfect racing team. The three wouldn't be together without Lottery funding (though being sponsored by Volvo also helps!), and their constant practice and honing of techniques will hopefully pay dividends in Brazil.
Speaking about their training sessions out in Rio, they weren't overly concerned by the recent press furore over the water-quality - in spite of seeing a few dead fish float by, it's not unlike the conditions at Athens or Beijing, and everyone just gets on with it - they really don't understand the fuss!?
Good luck @britishsonar