Paralympics London 2012 - Trick day 3 for GBR Sonar sailors

by RYA 
Hannah Stodel, John Robertson and Stephen Thomas on day 3
David Staley - IFDS ©
At the London 2012 Paralympic Sailing Competition, the British Sonar team insists that it is 'Game on!' as they sit just four points outside the medal zone at the halfway point despite a tricky day three on the water at Weymouth and Portland.

The trio of John Robertson (Sunderland), Hannah Stodel (West Mersea) and Steve Thomas (Bridgend) started the day confidently with a solid fourth place but admit they did not meet their own high standards in the second race of today, coming 13th.

The three-person keelboat sailors have now completed six races, meaning they can eliminate their worst score of the series. For the Brits that is that 13th so far.

But with everyone bar the Dutch leaders seemingly struggling for consistency in the opening half of the event, the Brits are certainly not about to start panicking about sitting seventh overall with five races still to come.

Stodel said: 'It’s all up and all down with the Australians having a really bad day today, the Norwegians had one bad race one good, the French same again, one bad one good, so I think everyone is facing the same thing, and it’s going to be the same again over the next few days, so there is everything to play for.

'It was an average day, but we are certainly close on the points, with only seven points between silver and seventh, which is mental!  We have still got everything to play for, seven points isn’t a lot when you look at what happened today. Game on!'

Thomas said: 'We are only halfway through the regatta and if you look at the last two day’s results they are all over the place with everyone up and down so it’s just all about keeping sane, keeping logical and keeping on fighting. Our boat speed is good, we are starting well, we just need a break or two and we will be there.'

Robertson said: 'It’s tough; it’s a Paralympic Games so it’s not going to be easy. We always try our best but it is hard work and we will keep working hard. The Dutch boat could have two 12ths tomorrow then we could be right back in the mixer for gold.'

After a two-hour postponement waiting for the breeze to arrive, conditions were light in Portland Harbour today, providing the sailors with the double challenge of keeping the boat going fast while contending with big swings in wind direction.

The Brits felt the full force of these fluky conditions in the second race of the day, which ultimately left them battling at the back of the fleet, as Robertson explained.

'With the race course being very close to the shore it was a bit shiftier than normal. We had cracking boat speed all round but in the second race we just lost our way a little bit and couldn’t get to where we wanted to be. Then we just slipped and missed out on the lucky breaks with wind shifts, which a few people had. But the spirits are high within the team and we back each other 100 per cent.'

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, Tony Downs and Ian Harrison 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