Sonar So Good


Image: Paul Wyeth/RYA

In this month’s British Sailing Team column, Sonar sailor Hannah Stodel tells of her delight at a hard-fought victory with teammates John Robertson and Steve Thomas at the Para World Sailing Championships in Melbourne.

I am so excited to finally be able to say we are Para World Champions for the third time.

After a tough week on Port Phillip Bay in Melbourne, John, Steve and I came away with World Championship gold once again after a nine-year wait to capture the hat-trick.

We went into the final day of racing with the yellow leaders’ dots on our sails and were able to close out the victory by a single point over a strong home Australian team. We did have a slightly nervous wait to have our title confirmed, however, as the Aussies sought redress for an incident with the French earlier in the week, which, even though we were not involved, might have affected the overall scores.

They ultimately proved unsuccessful, which worked out well for us.


Para World Sailing Championships 2015, Royal Yacht Club of Victoria, Williamstown.  Photo: Teri Dodds.

Para World Sailing Championships 2015, Royal Yacht Club of Victoria, Williamstown. Photo: Teri Dodds.

2015 was a rollercoaster for us a team from start to finish. We had some average performances and were just outside the medals so many times.

To anyone looking in from the outside, it might have seemed like the team had lost its edge recently. It had been a pretty frustrating time – as a team we had been used to featuring regularly on the podium at most major regattas.

But with the Sonar fleet becoming ever more competitive, you have to keep moving forward and pushing development projects quite hard. At times that has meant results have not been what they could have been as that process takes shape.

All of the development had been geared towards the World Championships in Melbourne, so we are over the moon that it all came together at the right time. To have been able to pull off the victory now, this close to the Paralympic Games when everyone is watching, is a great boost and we are so happy that all the hard work paid off.


John, Steve and I have been together longer than many marriages – we are aiming for our fourth Games together at Rio 2016 – so we know how to sail a Sonar together. What we have been working on is maximising the strengths we each have to build an even stronger British Sonar Sailing Team. The World Championship week has proved it is really working.

Mid way through the regatta you could have written us off with the disastrous results we got on one bad day, but what we do have that some other teams lack, is complete support for each other. There is no blame here. What is done is done, you learn and you move on. We fight for every place on the race course and we come back harder the next day, and that is exactly what we did in Melbourne.


There has been a pretty big gap between our World Championship wins: 2005, 2006 and 2015. I think this one is by far the most rewarding. Back then we were good, but now we are better.

One point might not be a lot, but that is what won us the championship, and in doing so I think we proved we can sail in all conditions. We could take hits and we could keep going, never giving up.

We have got plenty to work on in 2016, but we are fighting and we can go towards the Games with our heads held high.

Our aspirations of course remain the same as ever – Gold at Rio 2016.

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