Paralympics London 2012 - Brits remain firmly in the hunt

2.4mR racing on day two of the 2012 Paralympic Sailing Competition
David Staley - IFDS ©
At the London 2012 Paralympics in Weymouth and Portland, Great Britain's sailors remain firmly in the hunt for sailing silverware after a cat and mouse day two. The SKUD two-person keelboat pair of Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell sit in silver medal position, a point behind the leaders from Australia, while Helena Lucas occupies the bronze medal spot in the 2.4 Metre one-person keelboat class.
 
Meanwhile Britain’s resolute Sonar trio of John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas team ended a tricky day two of their three-person keelboat campaign on a high and looking forward to building on their solid start as they sit fifth overall, tied on points with Americans in fourth, and with just 10 points separating the top five boats.
 
Alexandra Rickham dismissed the idea that the race for SKUD class gold was a two-horse race between Britain and Australia as the USA ruled the waves today.
 
Rickham and Birrell and the Australian pair Dan Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch had shared the spoils to sit tied on level points at the end of the opening day.
 
But it was the performance of the 2011 and 2012 Worlds silver medallist Americans, Jen French and J-P Creignou, that really caught the eye today, as they scored two race wins to up their medal charge and move into bronze medal position to sit just a point behind Britain in second and two points behind the Australians.
 
The Brits scored fourth and second places today and Rickham said: 'I didn’t expect it, like others might have expected it, to be a two-horse race between ourselves and the Australians.
 
'You can never discount the Americans and the Canadians. Each day brings a different set of conditions and different people have strengths in different conditions so you see them push forward and clearly the Americans had a storming day. We’ve seen the Americans make massive gains in these conditions before so we have to keep plugging away. We were hoping to keep it to top threes but a four and two is not really a bad result so we will see what tomorrow brings.
 
'The top four boats are really close so we can’t really be unhappy with where we are at. It’s going to be fun and exciting racing and that’s what you come to the Games for isn’t it? If it was that easy we would have won one of these a long time ago!'
 
Helena Lucas insisted she is ready for the 'scrap' after a mixed second day of her event. Scores of third and 11th today enabled Germany’s Heiko Kroger and Thierry Schmitter (NED) to leapfrog her into the gold and silver medal spots. 
 
Helena Lucas - London 2012 Paralympics

Lucas opened her day confidently, with her first race third maintaining her overnight position at the top of the leaderboard. But the second race didn’t go quite so smoothly as Lucas had to complete two penalty turns for rocking the boat on the second leg of the race This saw her get caught in the middle of the pack and end the race in 11th, dropping her back to bronze medal position overall.
 
After the next race – race five overall – the sailors can eliminate their worst score of the regatta, which is guaranteed to once again shake up the top of the leaderboard.
 
Lucas said: 'I had a great first race and got a third in that, and could maybe have won it, so I was pretty happy with that. Then second race I was going alright, it was all pretty tight at the top and I was having a cracking run and then I got pinged for ‘rocking’ so I did my 720 penalty, which put me back in the pack.
 
'I did manage to pick off one place but it was pretty hard to get back into it after that. That was a bit of a disappointment because I think that would have been another solid result. I’d rather not have my discard on the second day but never mind. I was really happy with my speed upwind and downwind today.'
 
For the second evening running the Sonar trio found themselves in the protest room at the end of racing, this time alleging a right of way infringement by the Australian boat in the opening race of today had impeded their progress.
 
The Brits had originally finished that race in fifth, while the Australians, who had led overnight, were third. But the jury found in favour of the Brits’ protest, moving Robertson’s team up a place in that race while the Aussies were disqualified.
 
A gritty fifth in their second race of the day – during which they moved up from ninth at mark one to fifth on the final run to the line - means the Brits lay fifth overall heading into day three.
 
Stodel explains: 'We felt the Australians tacked and didn’t keep clear of us so we protested them and as such they have been disqualified from that race. Every point counts at this stage so we will keep fighting until the end.
 
'We had a bit of bad luck in the second race, we think we had a plastic bag caught around our rudder or something ridiculous because we were so slow up the first beat. But we fought to the bitter end and came back with a fifth so we can’t argue with that and there is all to play for now.'
 
Robertson added: 'To be fifth is ok but obviously we can do a lot better tomorrow so we look forward to that. There are certain areas we are just not quite firing on all cylinders on for whatever reason so if we can get those things sorted tomorrow it will be all glamour. The competition is really fierce so it is just who can make the least mistakes and get round the course the cleanest.'
 
The London 2012 Paralympic Sailing Regatta runs from Saturday 1 September and Thursday 6 September.
 
Racing is scheduled to resume at 11am tomorrow. Two races are scheduled per day for each class except on the final day when there will be one race.
 
RYA London 2012 website
http://www.sail-world.com/101652