On day four of the London 2012 Paralympic Sailing Competition, Helena Lucas extended her lead in the charge for sailing gold at Weymouth and Portland. Lucas picked up from where she left off yesterday, scoring yet another race win – her third in succession and fourth overall – which she followed up with a solid fourth in the second race of the day in the 2.4 Metre one-person keelboat class.
Helena Lucas, 2.4mR
With eight of her 11 races now complete, Lucas, the only woman in the fleet, holds an 11-point advantage over her nearest rival, Heiko Kroger (GER) in second, with three races to come.
It was a tricky day in Portland Harbour for all classes, with swinging breeze causing an initial delay to the start of racing, then race abandonments and course re-sets.
But Lucas did not show any impact of that disruption once racing did get underway in earnest.
She said: 'It was a really long day. We must have been on the water for about six hours with really shifty conditions. In the first race it was great to be at the front with none of the other top guys as it gave me a few extra points on my rivals. Heiko won the second race, which is fine as I’ve still managed to take a couple more points off him today, which is brilliant.
'We have been working so hard on my speed so I’m happy in all conditions. Whatever it brings tomorrow I’m looking forward to it and if I can have another good day on the water it would be fantastic. I’m really enjoying the regatta, it is one hell of an experience and I’m really enjoying it!'
Helena Lucas, 2.4mR - Paralympics London 2012
The Sonars are set to do three races tomorrow after they only managed to get one of their two scheduled races completed today.
The British team of John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas insist that the three-person keelboat class medals are 'still anybody’s game' as they ended today in sixth overall, four points off the medals with four scheduled races remaining.
The first attempt to run race seven was abandoned on the second leg with the Brits laying in sixth. The trio then had to be at their determined best once racing re-started as they rounded the first mark in ninth and edged their way back up to finish in sixth.
Stodel said: 'It was the right call to abandon the race. We came round the windward mark and it was a 20 degree wind shift at least, then it all changed again so I’m quite glad it was abandoned. Fair racing is better than that craziness! It was a good day I think, if you look at the scores the right people were behind us. It’s anybody’s game at the moment. There is no way it is over. We are going to race to the very, very end because absolutely anything can change at the moment.'
Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell admitted it had been a 'tough' day but that there was still everything to play for as the sit in bronze medal position in the SKUD two-person keelboat class.
Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell, SKUD18 - Paralympics London 2012
After having their first race of the day abandoned twice while in promising positions, the Brits then picked up fourth and second places. Coupled with the results of their Australian and American rivals this saw the Aussies extend their overall lead to four points with Britain tied on the same points as the United States but third on account of their number of race wins.
Rickham said: 'It was a tough day because we lost quite a lot of points on the leaders and we have been moved down into the third overall. But it is still all to play for. All in all we are feeling quite good and we will just see how it goes. We are deep in it with three races still to go so there is still a bit to play for and we are just going to hopefully make something happen and if not we will just be happy with whatever we come away with.'
The first Paralympic sailing event took place as demonstration sport at Atlanta 1996 in the Sonar boat (plus reserve). The British crew of Andy Cassell, Kevin Curtis and Tony Downs won gold. But a Paralympic medal has eluded Britain since sailing joined the full Paralympic Games programme at Sydney 2000.
The London 2012 Paralympic Sailing Regatta runs from Saturday 1st September to Thursday 6th September.
Two races per day are scheduled for each class from first to 5th September, with one race for each class on the final day (6th September). Racing is scheduled to start at 11am daily.
RYA London 2012 website