A disparity in age, experience and physical ability is no barrier to Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell forming a successful partnership in the Paralympic SKUD 18 class. Matthew Sheahan finds out how they tick

Niki Birrell

Early ambitions – “As a child I always enjoyed sailing as a hobby, but never thought it would develop beyond this. I guess I would have tried to start my own business as I prefer to be in control”

How it all started
– “I began competing in a Mirror with my brother Christian, who is three years younger, and won the Youth Europeans. We also sailed 420s and 470s and qualified for the Worlds in both classes before then moving on to the 470 where we were training partners for the Olympic development squad.
“When I came out of university I was asked whether I would sail in a Paralympic class boat. Until then I hadn’t considered disabled sailing, but the offer meant I would earn money and sail”

Best/worst quality – “I’m very competitive and don’t give up, but organisation isn’t my strength”

Hobbies and interests? – “Football, motor racing, computer games, table tennis”

How do you relax? – “Apart from watching Manchester City and socialising and listening to music, I sail some more, but in Fireballs. I try to do as many events as I can”

What picks you up when you’re down? – “I usually listen to music”

Non-sailing ambition – “To develop a successful business”

What’s your plan ‘B’? – “Haven’t got one. I tend to worry about things when they arise”

Pet hate
– Losing

Sporting hero – Lewis Hamilton

Position on boat – Crew

First class sailed – Mirror

Favourite sailing venue
– Weymouth

Favourite regatta
– Fireball Nationals

Favourite boat – Fireball

Current car
– Land Rover Freelander

Dream car – Any one that works

Personal favourites
FilmsLayer Cake
Band – Goo Goo dolls
Book – Senna, “although it’s the only one I’ve read!”
Non-sailing item – My car, but for the freedom it provides
Favourite computer game – FIFA and any car game

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Alexandra Rickham
  3. 3. Niki Birrell
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