Britain’s sailors will get their first chance to compete on the 2008 Paralympic race track in Qingdao, China, when racing at the 2008 IFDS Qingdao International Regatta gets underway on Sunday. Skandia Team GBR has fielded seven sailors across the three Paralympic Classes at this only Test Event ahead of the Games in September.
After their decisive win at the French Olympic Sailing Week in Hyeres (FRA) last month, John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Stephen Thomas will fly the GBR flag in the three-person Sonar class, Niki Birrell and Alex Rickham will compete in the two-person SKUD event, while Helena Lucas and Megan Pascoe will helm the two British boats in the one-person 2.4mR event.
The 33-year-old Lucas has competed on the tricky Qingdao waters before, standing in for double Olympic gold medallist Shirley Robertson in the Yngling class at the 2006 Pre-Olympics, while Robertson had her twins. Lucas, along with Robertson’s crew of Annie Lush and Lucy Macgregor claimed silver at that event.
Lucas, who will be the British 2.4mR representative at the Games in September, says the team have settled in well.
'We’ve been here for eight days now and are feeling like locals. After unloading our containers, we’ve managed to sail everyday in good conditions with only one day of light winds and battling the tide.
She continued: 'The team are getting on well in our first proper regatta as the selected Paralympic team, and we are looking forward to the event ahead.
'The results might not matter here but we are keen to continue to learn as much as we can about this tricky venue.'
RYA Olympic Manager Stephen Park said: 'It’s fantastic to have the opportunity of a Paralympic Test Event to establish how the link between the Olympic Village and the competition and international zones will work for the Games, and also to give our sailors some more experience of sailing in the Qingdao waters before coming back in September when the competition will be really all that matters.'
Racing at the 2008 IFDS Qingdao International Regatta runs from 11-15 May. The Qingdao squad:
Niki Birrell - Knutsford, Cheshire
Helena Lucas - Southampton
Alexandra Rickham - Epsom, Surrey
John Robertson - Sunderland
Hannah Stodel - West Mersea, Essex
Stephen Thomas - Cardiff
Megan Pascoe - Ardingly, West Sussex
Read more on the sailors’ experiences of life in Qingdao in their Test Event blog at www.skandiateamgbr.com