By Gary Anderson

August 21 - Niki Birrell and Alexandra Rickham celebrating their bronze medal at London 2012British duo Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell are taking nothing for granted as they seek to win a fifth straight world skud 18 title at the 2013 International Association for Disabled Sailing (IFDS) World Championships which get underway in Kinsale, Cork, next week.

Rickham, 31, and 27-year-old Birrell have dominated the skud 18 class since first winning the world title at the 2009 Championships in Greece, and going into London 2012 were the favourites to claim gold at Weymouth and Portland but had to make do with bronze in the end.

Despite the relative disappointment of London, the pair regrouped and in their only outing together this year they won gold at the European Championships in Switzerland in May.

"We haven't spent that much time in the boat this year, but we have been focusing on some bits and pieces quite significantly over the year which we hope will benefit our performance at the worlds," said Rickham.

"We are just looking to really enjoy the event but also use this regatta as a marker for the new [Rio Paralympic] 2016 campaign.

"We haven't had many events this year so this is definitely our performance regatta of the year."

The duo will once again be the crew to beat, particularly as the London 2012 silver medal winning US crew of Jen French and JP Creignou and Australian Paralympic champions Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch will not be competing in the skud 18 class at the Kinsale Yacht Club.

Niki Birrell left and Alexandra Rickham will be going in search of their fifth successive World Championship title in Kinsale this weekNiki Birrell (left) and Alexandra Rickham will be going in search of their fifth successive World Championship title in Kinsale this week

While they have a formidable World Championship record, the sailors admitted that they have learned from their experiences in London last year.

"Over the past year we have done a little bit of skud sailing, improved a few things and analysed a few things from the Games which has been useful," said Birrell.

"We have also spent some time apart - Alex has been off sailing in the 2.4mR while I've been sailing some able-bodied classes as well.

"We have just been trying to broaden our sailing experience and knowledge over the last year but still remembering at the same time that we are skud sailors.

"This is going to be our first big event since the [London] Games so we are going to see how we are going and where we are at compared to other competitors and kick on from there really."

Paralympic champion Helena Lucas will be tough to beat in the 2.4mR class in KinsaleParalympic champion Helena Lucas will be tough to beat in the 2.4mR class in Kinsale

In all their will be eight British boats making the short trip across the Irish Sea to the south coast of Ireland for the Championships which are due to begin on August 26.

As well as Rickham and Birrell, London 2012 gold medallist Helena Lucas is expected to feature in the final medal shake-up in the one-person 2.4mR event along with 2010 World Championship bronze medallist Megan Pascoe, while the sonar crew of John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Stephen Thomas will be looking to put the disappointment of their controversial fifth place finish at last year's Paralympics behind them as they seek to win a third World Championship crown.

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