Published: 08 November 2018

SPECIAL INTEREST MATTERS Tuesday 18 September, 2018

Ms FORREST - Mr President, my electorate certainly has some very good sportspeople and I am going to speak about another one now.

Honourable members might recall me speaking about the world-class and internationally recognised Wynyard Yacht Club in the past, noting the amazing achievements of the club and some of the individuals involved in the club.  Today I particularly note the incredible achievements of Chris Symonds and his coach and sailing partner, Mike Darby.  For those who do not know, Chris has serious mobility challenges due to advancing motor neurone disease and relies on a mobility scooter to get around.

Before I commend them for their most recent international success, I note some of their more recent achievements at international sailing regattas.

In 2016, Chris won the world Hansa 303 Single championships in the Netherlands and is the current champion.  This competition is held every two years.  He has since retained that title, and I will get to that.

In 2016 Chris and Mike were the world Hansa 303 Doubles runners-up.  In 2017 Chris won silver in the Para World Sailing Championships in Kiel, Germany.  Chris is a three-time Australian champion Hansa 303 singles, 2014, 2015 and 2016 and three-time runner-up in the Australian championships 303 doubles in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

During the summer months, Chris and Mike devote all their energy into sailing and powerboat training as well as their amazing Sailability program and their Marine Rescue Unit at Wynyard Yacht Club.  Winter is their racing time, not a time that I would like to be on the water training for and competing in these competitions.

Chris and Mike are also heavily involved in the upcoming Australian National Laser Championships to be held at the Mersey Yacht Club over Christmas with up to 300 competitors.  Mike is one of the three race officials and Chris is a race director.

Chris has again recently put Tasmania and Wynyard on the international map, winning gold.  Chris and Mike travelled to Sheboygan, Wisconsin, USA, where Chris won the Hansa 303 male division of the 2018 Para World Sailing Championships.  Chris said this was an amazing achievement against so many great sailors from around the world.

Chris is an amazing sailor who overcomes a major disability to achieve results we can only respect and admire.  He spoke recently about the many different cultures who came together to compete in identical equipment with only the sailor's preparation, skill and nerve being the deciding factor.  All new boats were provided for the event.

There were 43 countries represented at these championships, with 130 sailors competing.  Australian Sailing supported five athletes and two coaches, Mike Darby being one of the coaches focusing on the Hansa 303 male and female sections.

Chris said conditions were good with the winds medium to light and a very bumpy sea state on Lake Michigan, a huge freshwater lake.  Chris said his physical and mental preparation was key to winning the regatta, with four months of intense training over the Tasmanian winter in the waters off Wynyard.  This is not somewhere I would choose to be over winter.

Chris and Mike were supported both on water and off water by Australian Sailing.  The Australian team was the highest achieving nation, with two gold and a silver.

Less than two weeks ago Chris won the Open All Abilities World Championships sailing the same Hansa 303 male division class in Hiroshima, Japan where he won gold competing against 119 sailors from 24 countries attending over four Hansa classes. 

Chris also competed in the Hansa 303 two-up division at the same event, sailing with his coach, friend and carer Mike Darby, a very special occasion for them both.  They both get a bit emotional when they talk about it.

Chris and Mike competed in the 303 doubles division against 52 competitors and achieved a remarkable second place in doubles, beaten by only one point, to the Japan crew who were sailing in their home waters.  Chris also competed in a 303 singles division against 43 competitors and was placed second, again beaten by only one point by Poland.  Only a boat length separated them at the finish of the last race.

What an amazing effort from Chris Symons, an inspiring and humble Tasmanian who needs a mobility scooter to get around on land, and his wonderful coach, carer and good friend Mike Darby.  For anyone who has not met Chris, he is much smaller than I.  He is quite frail and has serious mobility challenges as his motor neurone disease advances.  He is an incredible Tasmanian.

The Wynyard community has been very supportive of the Wynyard Yacht Club as well as Chris and Mike, with many offers of assistance.  Their success really is all about hard work and dedication, mental strength and commitment of these two men, Chris and Mike.  Two truly amazing, inspiring and humble Tasmanians - we should all be very proud of them.

I sincerely and humbly congratulate them both.

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