Helena Lucas, Team Volvo sailor, is gearing up to try to claim another piece of major silverware almost exactly a year after winning the medal that catapulted her into the national spotlight.
2013 International 2.4mR World Championships
Lucas, who became Britain’s first Paralympic sailing gold medalist in winning the 2.4 Metre class at London 2012, is this week competing at the Volvo Car UK-supported 2013 International 2.4mR World Championships at the Poole Yacht Club, Dorset.
Whereas most 2.4mR regattas Lucas competes in every year are exclusively for Paralympic classes’ sailors, the 2.4mR class Worlds is unique in that the event pits able-bodied and disabled sailors against one another on a level playing field.
The boat’s design – a stable keelboat which has the fingertip feel of a dinghy and is insensitive to sailor size - means every competing athlete, regardless of ability, age or gender, has just as much chance of claiming the top Worlds prize.
Lucas admits she loves the unpredictability of the 2.4mR Worlds. She said: 'It gets said so much, but it really is quite a special event. Because of the type of boat the 2.4mR is anyone really can race on a level playing field and this event is all 2.4mR sailors racing side by side for the trophy.
'While in Paralympic classes sailing the boat is one-design, for the Open Worlds you have the flexibility to develop and set the boat up exactly how you want, you can make it as simple or as complicated as you want but the real test comes down to how good a sailor you are, which is why anyone can win.
'It’s such a fun, exciting, tactical boat where you are solely in charge of everything; tactics, boat handling, speed. It’s like racing a little yacht and although when you first start sailing the boat being so close to the water takes some getting used to it’s one of the most fun things about it.
'I think every Open Worlds I’ve done a Paralympic sailor has finished in the top three, which really highlights the point that it’s sailing ability, not physical ability, that’s most important. It’s nothing to do with strength.
'And it’s such a friendly class to be involved in too. It’s not just able-bodied and disabled sailors racing alongside each other, it’s men and women and people aged from 17 to 75 too, and if you’re a good sailor you have just as much chance of winning as anyone else. What other event is like that?'
Helena took time out of her event preparations to sail with local school children as part of National Paralympic Day on Saturday, and she is delighted the positive momentum from last year’s record-breaking Paralympics is still being felt.
She added: 'I can’t believe it’s been a year since London 2012, but I’m really pleased we are finding ways to keep the public engaged and interested in Paralympic sport.
'There is still a really positive feeling around Paralympic sport and it’s fantastic to be able to coincide it with competing in an event where the whole Paralympic ethos of inclusivity is probably underlined better than at any other event.'
Racing at the International 2.4mR World Championships starts on Tuesday 10th September and ends on Friday 13th September.