by Dana Paxton
At the London 2012 Paralympic Sailing Competition, after a two-hour wait for wind on Portland Harbour, racing finally got underway. Jen French and JP Creignou had another impressive day in the SKUD-18 event (Two Person Keelboat), and moved up to second overall. In the 2.4mR (One Person Keelboat), Mark LeBlanc stormed back with a pair of keeper race finishes to end the day in sixth, while Paul Callahan, Tom Brown and Bradley Johnson moved into podium position, third, in the Sonar (Three Person Keelboat). Two races were held in the SKUD-18 and 2.4mR, with one completed in the Sonar.
SKUD-18: Jen French and JP Creignou
Jen French (St. Petersburg, Fla.) and JP Creignou (St. Petersburg, Fla.) won the day’s opening race in the Two Person Keelboat event (SKUD-18). 'Not a bad way to start the day after two abandoned races,' said French.
Although French and Creignou were in leading positions in both of the abandoned races, she pointed out that the day worked out in their favor. 'You’d rather have the race committee do a fair job at the end of the day,' she said.
Sailors returned to the dock in the early evening. 'It’s a long day and we’ll have a good long sleep tonight,' said French.
In the second race, race 8, they collected a fourth and are now tied on points with British team of Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell, who are in third place. Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch (AUS) are four points ahead in first place.
SKUD-18: Jen French and JP Creignou - Paralympics London 2012
In the One Person Keelboat event (2.4mR), Mark LeBlanc (New Orleans, La.) had his strongest day of racing, to date, collecting two third places. 'It was a little tricky waiting around forever,' said LeBlanc. 'The starts and stops were frustrating. We finally got two races off and I’m happy with how we did. We had clean starts and sailed well, and finished well.'
With all three events held on the same race course, none were immune to the shifting wind that caused delays. 'It’s frustrating at times, but it happens,' he said. 'It’s not in your control and you have to take what you get. That’s sailboat racing.'
After a disappointing day yesterday, LeBlanc was happy with today’s performance and positioning. 'I’m moving up, which is good,' he said. 'That’s the plan.'
Although there was only one race held in the Three Person Keelboat (Sonar) event, Team USA’s Paul Callahan (Cape Coral, Fla./Newport R.I.), Tom Brown (Castine, Me.) and Bradley Johnson (Pompano Beach, Fla.) held their podium position. They finished race 7 in fifth place and are now third overall in the 14-boat fleet. Racing began, but was then abandoned due to unstable wind direction.
Sonar: Paul Callahan, Tom Brown and Bradley Johnson - Paralympics London 2012
'It was one of the shiftiest days I’ve ever sailed in a decade, but full credit goes to my team mates Tom and Bradley who have been fantastic all week,' said Callahan. 'We’ve been gelling as a team and peaking at the right time. We handled the breeze and the shifts well. It was nice to finally sail a good hard race once the breeze filled in.'
The Team is four points behind second-place team from Germany and 15 points from the first-place team from The Netherlands.
On Wed., Sept. 5 the race committee will run three races in the Three Person Keelboat (Sonar), with two races in the One Person Keelboat (2.4mR) and Two Person Keelboat (SKUD-18).
US Sailing London 2012 website