by Craig Heydon
On day four of the London 2012 Paralympic Sailing Competition, Australian sailors Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch extended their lead at the front of the Skud 18 fleet. Light winds again delayed racing in Weymouth on Tuesday morning with racing eventually getting underway in the early afternoon.
Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch have extended their lead at the London 2012 Paralympic Games
Fitzgibbon and Tesch took a slender one point lead over their British opponents into races seven and eight but a second and a first have allowed them to open up a four point lead over the USA and Great Britain.
The Australians found themselves back in fourth at the top mark for the first time on Tuesday, picking up positions at each mark rounding to eventually cross the line second behind the Americans.
With the breeze building to around 10 knots for the start of the next race Fitzgibbon and Tesch got off to a good start and pushed on from there, leading at each mark to take the win by almost a minute.
'Today was a really long day on the water, we were out there for six hours,' said Fitzgibbon. 'We got two races away early but both were abandoned due to the erratic wind direction and strength.
'Finally the course was moved and we got two races completed,' he said. 'In the first we didn’t have a great start but consolidated our position to round the top mark fourth. From there we fought hard to claw our way back to second behind the Americans at the finish.
'The second race start was much better for us and we rounded the first mark in the lead,' he said. 'The British were close behind us and we battled the fleet for the whole race, holding on for the win.
'We now hold a four point lead over both the American and British teams who are tied for second,' said Fitzgibbon. 'We’re happy with this position and we just have to keep going for another two good races tomorrow.'
In the Sonar class Australians Colin Harrison, Stephen Harris and Jonathan Churm are now fourth overall after their fleet was only able to complete one race on Portland Harbour on Tuesday.
Harrison, Harris and Churm were seventh in the race, fighting their way back through the fleet after being 14th at the bottom gate for the first time.
Harrison and crew picked up a position on the next leg but it was the final lap where they made up the most ground, passing five boats to round the top mark for the final time in eighth, going on to pick up a final spot on the run to the line.
The result leaves the Australians two points behind third and six off second with four races still scheduled to run.
Matt Bugg has ended day four seventh in the 2.4mR class following a pair of seventh place finishes.
Bugg finished strongly in both races, moving up from 10th to seventh on the second beat in race one and then coming from the back of the fleet in race two.
At the halfway point Bugg was 16th and last but had a great upwind leg, passing nine boats to be seventh at the top mark, holding onto that position on the final downwind.
Going into the final two days of racing Bugg is 14 points off the podium at his first Paralympic Games appearance.
Racing continues on Portland Harbour on Wednesday, the sailing competition at the London 2012 Paralympic Games continues until Thursday 6 September.
Australian Sailing Team website