The starting field of the World Championship of the inclusion and paraclass RS Venture Connect within the 132nd Travemünde Week is impressive. Eleven teams from a total of four nations are taking part. Three German Paralympic winners are on the starting list: Heiko Kröger, Jens Kroker and Sigmund Mainka. The trio looked forward to the first World Championships of the RS Venture Connect boat class with a strong international field...
Because the Para and Inclusion class is still quite young, the starting conditions were quite similar for most of the starters. "As sailing the RS Venture Connect is still new for all of us, we have the same conditions. Compared to other boats, these are relatively ponderous and not as agile," explains Jens Kroker, who has three Paralympic medals to his name - one gold (2008, Beijing) and two silver (2000, Sydney and 2012, London). At the Travemünde Week, he will start together with his wife Sabine Kroker-Hohmann. Both agree: "There are very good sailors here at the World Championships. The field is very international and strong. We will definitely do our best."
The weather conditions were good on the opening day of the World Championships (24 to 26 July) in the Bay of Lübeck. With sunshine, moderate wind from east and stately waves, the boats glided over the starting line and set off on the up-and-down course. Sailors competed in two categories, as a team with two sailors with disabilities in the para class and as a team with one person with a disability and one without in the inclusion class.
In Germany in particular, there has been a trend towards inclusion classes in sailing for some time. This is a move that Jens Kroker very much welcomes: "Sailing is one of the most inclusive sports around, and boats in general are very suitable for inclusion of any kind." Like many other para-sailors, he hopes that sailing will become Paralympic again in the foreseeable future, after being left out of the programme at this year's Paralympics for the first time.
At the World Championships during the Travemünde Week, Sigmund Mainka is also among the participants, who together with Jens Kroker as foresailor won the gold medal at the Paralympics in China in 2008 and the silver medal in the Sonar boat class in London in 2012. This time Mainka is in the boat with helmsman Jürgen Brietzke, with whom he recently won the first regatta of the new Inclusion League in Hamburg. He has fond memories of sailing with Jens Kroker: "We were in the same boat together for ten years and complemented each other very well. Yesterday I was on the water in Travemünde for the very first time and exchanged ideas with Jens afterwards." However, sailing in the RS Venture Connect class would be very different from sailing in the Sonar because of the bucket seats. "In the RS Venture Connect, I can play less with the weight. It's a whole new challenge. So I'm still learning something new," Mainka explains. Due to the compulsory break from racing due to the corona, all the sailors are happy to finally be able to compete again, he says. "We are all a bit starved in terms of sailing and are now keen on regatta sailing," says the para-sailor, looking forward to the World Championships.
Among the favourites for the World Championships in Travemünde is the successful German Para-sailor Heiko Kröger, Paralympic winner in the 2.4 mR class in 2000 and silver medallist at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. The World Championship is his debut in the RS Venture Connect boat class. "I sat in the boat for the first time yesterday. I first have to get used to the sluggishness," he said before the first start in Travemünde. He sees sailing in the new boat class as a welcome change. He is pleased about the well-staffed starting field.
Kröger seems to have got used to the new boat class quickly. After the four races of the first day of the World Championships, he is in third place in the overall standings with his coxswain Clemens Kraus. Second place is currently held by Jens Kroker with his wife Sabine Kroker-Hohmann. The Spaniards Gabriel Barroso and Javier Serrano lead the field.