by Dana Paxton
On day one of competition at the 2012 Paralympic Games in Weymouth and Portland, U.K., the U.S. Paralympic Sailing Team holds fourth place in all three events: Jen French and JP Creignou are fourth in the SKUD-18, Mark LeBlance fourth in the 2.4mR and Paul Callahan, Tom Brown and Bradley Johnson fourth in the Sonar. Two races were held in each event, with 11 races total scheduled through September 6th.
Sonar sailors in action
Jen French and JP Creignou had an outstanding first day of racing in the Two Person Keelboat (SKUD-18) finishing third and fifth in the 11-boat fleet. After two races they find themselves in fourth place, one point out of third behind Canada.
'We had good boat speed,' said French after racing. 'It was shifty so it was a little tricky. There isn’t a lot of room for error in this fleet because we have some really good guys.'
Although the wind was dying in strength throughout the day, never reaching more than 10 knots, French went on to explain that the race committee kept up well by changing courses. 'It’s all about playing the shifts,' she said. 'It’s day one and there’s a lot of racing to go. First day jitters, I think everyone has them. You never get too emotional because it’s a long way to go. It’s a fun fleet to race in and it always makes for good racing.
Mark LeBlanc started the day with a third place in race one. It was so close at the finish line among the fleet that it wasn’t until after the racing ended for the day that he found out. With a eighth in race two, LeBlanc is currently in fourth overall, just four points from third.
'I had an OK start,' said LeBlanc after racing. 'I ended up sailing well and was fifth or sixth at each mark rounding, and passed some boats downwind to finish third. '
Despite the fleet being a little more on edge in the pre-start maneuvering, LeBlanc explained that it’s best not to get caught up. 'In the end you always try to treat it like any regatta,' said LeBlanc. 'It wasn’t too nerve wracking. It’s all about going through the steps of a race: good start, good speed, good race management, trying to do your best.'
The first race went very well for Paul Callahan, Tom Brown and Bradley Johnson in the 14-boat Sonar event where they ended in third place, but the second race found them in the back of the fleet after the start and having to find the best way through the fleet.
'We kinda got pinned out on the left and had a second where we could have crossed and we would have been first or second around the top mark,' said Brown. 'But we just didn’t have the cajones to do the flip and cross. We would have had to cross France. There was a second where we had the option, but it was one of those dicey ones if we had to have crossed we had to have, but if we didn’t we would have had to duck a lot of boats. We got pinned out actually. A couple of boats came underneath us and all the boats going flipped up on top of us. We got shut out the back and got the fishing rods and started reeling back in.'
They went from 12th at the beginning of the race to finishing sixth. They’re currently in fourth place overall.
Racing on September 2nd is scheduled to begin at 11:00 BST with the SKUD-18, 2.4mR and then the Sonar races at 14:00.
US Olympic website