Macquarie Access Worlds opening - Politicians attending

Getting ready to race - Access Worlds
David Staley - copyright
Middle Harbour Yacht Club, host of the 2012 Macquarie World Championships, is pleased to announce that Tony Abbott, Federal Member for Warringah and Leader of the Opposition, along with the Hon. Graham Annesley MP, the NSW Minister for Sport and Recreation, will attend the Opening Ceremony of the event this Sunday evening.

The two will be joined by yachting icon, Sir James Hardy and other special guests, including indigenous performers and guest speakers.

Some of the world’s most highly decorated sailors, among them Paralympians and world, national and European champions, will compete when racing gets underway on Sydney Harbour from 9-13 April.

Open to competitors of all abilities, making it a rare opportunity for athletes with a disability to compete alongside able-bodied athletes, MHYC welcomes spectators to come and view some world-class sailors doing what they do best.

At the top of those heading to Middle Harbour for the event is Zoltan Pegan. Originally from Australia, he now calls Hungary home. As reigning world and European champion in the Access 303 single-person, and in the two-person with his wife Eva, he is the man to beat and the pairs to beat. The 53 year-old former pilot, also represented Hungary in the 2.4mR single-person class at the Beijing Games.

At the other end of the age spectrum is 16 year-old Angus MacGregor, a finalist in the 2009 Australian Yachting Awards who went on to win the 2010 Sailor of the Year with a Disability award for his outstanding victory at the 2010 Access 2.3 World Championship in the UK, where he won seven out of the eight race series.

The Queenslander’s sailing career went ahead when he won the 2008 Australian Access Championship and then claimed victory in the 2009 International Access Class Regatta in Japan. Sailing regularly against able-bodied sailors has made the youngster tough in the Access 2.3 Single Person. However, he will also have to sail against older brother, Duncan, who owns a few titles of his own.

Beijing Paralympic silver medallist, Dan Fitzgibbon, will be on the start line with his crew, 42 year-old Liesl Tesch. The gregarious NSW Central Coast teacher has represented Australia at five Paralympic Games in Wheelchair Basketball, winning Silver at Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004, adding Bronze from the Beijing Games. The two look set to represent Australia at London Paralympics in the SKUD 18, but team is yet to be announced.

Ame Barnbrook is a remarkable 23 year-old from the NSW South Coast. Born with Phocoamelia, meaning she has only the lower half of her left leg, a small foot and three toes and no other limbs. The accomplished trumpet player has kept Fitzgibbon and Tesch’s honest in the SKUD 18 for Paralympic selection, and has won a few events along the way.

Greg Hyde from Clontarf in NSW is a former windsurfing world champion who represented Australia at the 1984 Olympics. He was also a 16ft skiff champion and crew of the gruelling 1993 Sydney Hobart overall winner before a usually fatal form of encephalitis struck him 14 years ago.

A stroke in 2008 resulted in partial paralysis, short-term memory loss, and speech difficulties, but has not stopped him competing in the sport he loves. Gold at the 2009 World Masters Games and a win in his first competition in the Liberty class proves ‘Hydey’ still has what it takes.

Stephen Churm – the NSW sailor recently joined Beijing bronze medallist skipper, Colin Harrison, in his Sonar three-person boat for a Paralympic campaign. In their first outing, they finished fourth against a world-class fleet and Churm, who will compete at these Championships in the Access 303, is likely to be heading to the London Paralympics.

Access designer, Chris Mitchell, will also be attending the Worlds. The Victorian is always on hand to tweak boats, make repairs, and generally help out, both on and off the water.

To follow the Macquarie 2012 Access Worlds, go to the official website.