SAILING: First Miami win for paralympian

Knutsford Guardian: SKUD crew Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell in action during last year's IFDS Disabled World Championships. Picture: Michael MacSweeney SKUD crew Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell in action during last year's IFDS Disabled World Championships. Picture: Michael MacSweeney

KNUTSFORD sailor Niki Birrell, a five-time world champion, is celebrating a career-first victory at a World Cup event in Miami.

The only title missing from his collection is Paralympic gold.

He was joined Alexandra Rickham in a SKUD class boat in America, the duo finishing first overall after the final day’s racing was cancelled due to a lack of wind.

“We’ve been here five times now and had every result except a win,” said Birrell afterwards.

“I think we lost on countback last time, which was pretty annoying, but finally we’ve got the gold.

“It’s always nice to win, but more importantly it was encouraging to have such good boat speed against everybody else both upwind and downwind as that made planning our tactics easier.”

Birrell, now 27, and Rickham had a low key campaign in 2013, competing in just the European and World Championships – which they won – after which Rickham took time off.

She returned in time for the regatta.

They discovered there is plenty of work to do too, according to Birrell.

He added: “Our starting hasn’t improved, so I’m sure our coach will have some plans to work on that in the future.”

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