Rolex Miami OCR - Perfect practice for paralympic hopeful

Helena Lucas at the Rolex Miami-OCR-2011
Rob Wilson
Rolex Miami OCR - The weekend saw the close of an exciting week of racing across the waters in the USA. The Rolex Miami OCR brought together the world’s top sailors for elite-level competition in the classes selected for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Established in 1990, the annual week-long event attracts foreign teams through the traditionally tough competition offered. Held on the picturesque Biscayne Bay in Coconut Grove, Fla., this prestigious event is the second stop on the International Sailing Federation’s (ISAF) Sailing World Cup 2010-2011 circuit.

From all over the world, there were athletes who are either already on their national teams or aspiring to be named on them. With 716 Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls from fifty three countries, all fleets were extremely deep with talent. The 2.4mR was one of three Paralympic classes in which British hopeful and Hampshire based Helena Lucas was sailing.

Unlike the SKUD and SONAR classes which are restricted to disabled sailors only, the 2.4mR is not just restricted to the Paralympic sailors. This ensures a good turn out and a high level of competition. This year saw 30 boats of which half were able bodies. With numerous medalists competing, the top 10 in this highly contested class was too close to call.

The 2.4mR is hugely popular with medalists because of its compact size – about 14 feet long – and the fact that it requires little physical exertion to sail. Its skipper remains seated, facing forward at all times with the majority of his body below the waterline, and has the choice of steering it by foot pedal or by tiller, making it an equal platform for sailors with varying physical restrictions.

Helena opted to ship her old boat to the States, wanting to use her new boat, purchased for her by her sponsor Charles Russell LLP, in Palma for training and the European regattas. At seven years old, her old boat was starting to show her age and making some unnerving creaks and bangs in the waves.

Helena’s main goal for the regatta was to test the new sails her team had developed but she was also hoping for a good result. And she certainly delivered, coming in an impressive seventh overall and posting a second and first in races on day 4. Despite a snapped vectran strop on the first day which hindered her results, a seventh place is a great start to 2011.

Keir Gordon, Partner at Charles Russell LLP, commented, 'Not only did Helena finish in the top 10 which is brilliant but the five days of racing against the world’s best would have provided Helena with the practice to help her in her run for a spot on the Skandia Team GBR.'