At the London 2012 Paralympic Sailing Competition, the fired up British Sonar team insisted that the three-person keelboat class medals are 'still anybody’s game' at the end of day four. Challenging variable conditions in Portland Harbour meant the Sonars only got one race under their belts today, with John Robertson (Sunderland), Hannah Stodel (West Mersea) and Steve Thomas (Bridgend) scoring a sixth place finish to be sat in sixth overall, just four points off the medals, with four scheduled races remaining.
Team GBR, Sonar racing on day four
Veering breezes caused an initial delay to the start of racing, then 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 did begin in earnest as they rounded the first mark in ninth and edged their way back up to finish in sixth.
The American team led by Paul Callahan currently sit in bronze medal position with 27 points with the Brits on 31. The Jens Kroker-helmed German boat lies second overall with 23 points while Udo Hessels’ Dutch team lead on 12 points.
With the breeze forecast to increase tomorrow, and the hope that it will be more stable and consistent, Stodel insists this could work in the Brits’ favour.
She said: 'We were fired up today as we just love going sailing. To be honest waiting we find funny because we could see the other teams getting stressed and wound up and we were like, ‘It’s Weymouth this happens you know, deal with it!’
'It was the right call to abandon the race; it was all over the show. 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 are 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.'
With only two days of racing left to come, the Sonar fleet are a race behind the other two classes, having completed only seven of their scheduled 11 races, while the SKUDs and the 2.4mRs have completed eight.
Race officials have the option, weather permitting, to catch up on missed races, so the Brits will be hoping to complete their full complement of 11 races to give themselves the best chance of finishing the regatta with a medal.
Robertson added: 'We had a pretty good day for the conditions, we sailed a lot better today and got a reasonable result and the guys that we needed to beat were mainly behind us, which is good. The race we got was pretty tricky, as it has been all week, but the boat was going quick. Patience is definitely the key, if we remain patient it will come, but we are running out of races and we know that. We know where we are and we are confident we can nail it.'
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