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Britain's sailors struggle for form at Paralympics

by Karenza Morton on 10 Sep 2008
Britain’s Paralympic sailors will be looking for an upturn in fortunes in the second part of week after reaching the midway point of the Beijing 2008 regatta in Qingdao.

After day 2 of the sailing at Qingdao, Niki Birrell and Alex Rickham are the highest placed Britons, lying sixth in the SKUD-18 two-person keelboat class. Helena Lucas in the 2.4mR picked up the best British race score today and is seventh overall, while John Robertson, Stephen Thomas and Hannah Stodel in the Sonar are also in seventh place overall after five races

With the full scheduled complement of five races completed after two days, Wednesday will be a rest day for the athletes, meaning the six Brits, who currently lie in sixth, seventh and seventh overall in the three classes, will look to regroup ahead of the restart of racing on Thursday in a bid to work their way up the fleets.

Niki Birrell and Alex Rickham are the highest placed Britons, lying sixth in the SKUD-18 two-person keelboat class. The pair scored a 9, 8, 4 from their three races Tuesday but with the first discard coming into play after five races, Birrell and Rickham have ditched the ninth and sit on 22 points overall.

American duo Nick Scandone and Maureen McKinnon Tucker continue to lead the SKUD fleet with a total of five points.

Helena Lucas picked up the best British race score today, finishing third in her third and final 2.4mR race of the day, moving through the fleet from seventh at the first mark rounding.

Lucas had picked up scores of 7, 7 in her earlier two outings. Lucas has discarded her race one 10th to be placed in seventh overall also on 22 points. Canadian Paul Tingley maintains his position at the head of the 2.4mR pack on nine points.

John Robertson, Stephen Thomas and Hannah Stodel in the Sonar class grappled back from 11th at the first mark in their opening race of the day to eventually take sixth, but they struggled to make an impact on the fleet in the follow up encounter scoring a subsequently discarded 10th.

A fifth in their final outing of the day also puts them in seventh position overall on 23 points with French trio Bruno Jourdren, Herve Larhant and Nicolas Vimont-Vicary leading the class on eight points.

RYA Olympic Manager Stephen Park said: 'Generally across all the fleets we have not been starting well enough and the sailors need to be a bit more assertive in their sailing and more confident in making good starts.

'Everyone is going to use the opportunity of the lay day tomorrow to get some training time in and reinforce the basics. There are still six races left and plenty of opportunities for them to force their way into the running for the medals.'

Sonar skipper Robertson echoed Park’s sentiments. 'This wasn’t where we expected to after five races,' he admits. 'Our boat speed has been generally good but now we’ve got to go and get hold of the regatta on Thursday. We are still confident of being in the medals at the end of the series.'

Lucas said: 'I was struggling to start well at the beginning of the event but I seem to have got that sorted by the end of the day today. Now I’ve got to make that count for the rest of the regatta.'

Skud helm Birrell added: 'We felt we were a little bit short of downwind speed and we will be using the opportunity tomorrow to work on that.'

The Paralympic Regatta is scheduled to consist of an 11 races series for each of the three classes - when nine races have been completed, sailors can discard a second score from their series.

Unlike the Olympic Regatta, there is no double points’ medal race sailed on the last day of the regatta rather the sailor(s) finishing on the lowest number of points at the end of the series wins the gold medal. The series is scheduled to conclude with the 11th and final race on Saturday.

Three races are scheduled for all classes when racing resumes on Thursday with racing due to start at 12:00 local time (05:00 UK time).
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