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. Redhill raised 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 - London 2012 Paralympics
With eight of the 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 with swinging breeze causing an initial delay to the start of racing, then race abandonments and course re-sets.
But Portland-based 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. It was a great first race and then I had to work hard in the second race.
'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!'
After the first attempt to run race seven had been abandoned, Lucas didn’t get the best start in the re-start, after the course has been moved to suit the conditions better. But by the first mark she had picked her way through the fleet to round in first.
With just 200m to go there was less than five metres separating her and Paul Tingley (CAN) in second place. In a nail-biting dive to the line Lucas held off the Beijing 2008 champion to secure the race win.
Race eight was insanely close with the whole fleet moving en masse up to the top mark and Lucas rounding in ninth. Again she had to use her powers of determination to claw her way as far up the pack as possible, making up five places between mark two and the end of the race.
She added: 'In the second race it was a case of a bit of a bad start and then I sort of bounced around a little bit. I had to just refocus and work out what I was going to do, what are the priorities and just simplify it.
'My number one priority was to just try to get clear of all the traffic and sail fast, settle down and then see how it was panning out. By doing that it got me back in the hunt and it was then just a case of looking for those opportunities to pass boats. People make mistakes and that’s your opportunity to pounce and get past them.'
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