The London 2012 Paralympic Sailing Regatta first day of competition got underway on Saturday 1st September, in Weymouth and Portland, and continues until Thursday 6th September. Helena Lucas enjoyed a near perfect start to her campaign to sit atop the 2.4 Metre class leaderboard.
Helena Lucas claims early advantage - London 2012 Paralympic Sailing Competition
Redhill-born Lucas, competing in the one-person keelboat class, got out of the pack well in race one to round the first mark in second overall, the position she comfortably maintained throughout the rest of the race.
The 37-year-old followed that performance with a thrilling finish in race two, edging ahead of 2011 Worlds silver medallist, Thierry Schmitter (NED), on the line to win by one second! Only 10 seconds separated Lucas and Damien (FRA) Seguin in fourth.
Lucas, a three-time Worlds medallist, finished seventh on her Paralympics debut in Beijing four years ago and has spoken about her desire to banish the ghosts of China by trying to claim a British Paralympic sailing medal – something that has eluded the country since sailing became a full Paralympic sport in 2000.
But Lucas is not about to start getting carried away with nine races to go.
She said: 'It’s a solid start to the first day, which is great. It’s always good to get the regatta off to a good start. It was really close racing, that last race was so close coming down to the finish and actually it was really good fun. Trying to just work the boat, catch that last wave to get over the line.
'It also helps I know I’m quick downwind so I was quietly confident that if I sailed really well I definitely had an opportunity to take a few places. I wasn’t quite expecting to cruise into first but I definitely knew there were some places to be had. But there is a hell of a long way to go yet, we’ve only done two races!'
Lucas came off the line in race one and was in as low as 13th in the 16 boat fleet in the early stages of the race. But she progressed through the fleet to follow reigning World champion and Athens 2004 gold medallist, Seguin, around the top mark, a status quo that remained while a battle for third unravelled behind them.
Race two was insanely tight with the top four of Lucas, Seguin, Schmitter and Germany’s Heiko Kroger switching places continually. Lucas had rounded the penultimate mark in fourth but in a final dive for the line the Brit, the only woman in the fleet, managed to eke out the most minute advantage to claim the overall lead.
She added: 'That last race proved you could be fourth or first, literally within the last few metres of the line I could have been fourth in that race. The racing is going to be tight in our fleet and there are going to be days when you get that lucky wave, and you cruise on through, and there’s going to be days when you’re a little bit unlucky.
'This morning I was just trying to normalise it and think this is home. It does feel different, it’s definitely more exciting. In the first race my heart rate as I came off the line was rocketing and I was like ‘Calm down! Calm down!’ It’s really comforting to know you’ve got that support around you down here.'
Seguin sits in second overall, two points behind Lucas, with Schmitter in third.
Racing is scheduled to resume at 11am on Sunday 2nd September. Two races are scheduled per day for each class except on the final day when there will be one race.
Update: Damien Seguin (FRA) was disqualified from race two following a right of way protest called by Paul Tingley (CAN). The protest was upheld. This means Thierry Schmitter (NED) now sits second overall behind Helena Lucas (GBR) in first, with Heiko Kroger (GER) in third. Lucas holds a four point lead over Schmitter.