Britain’s Paralympic sailors will be looking for one final massive effort on the closing day of the Beijing 2008 regatta as they bid to upset the odds and clinch last-gasp sailing silverware for Paralympics GB Saturday. Only Helen Lucas in the 2.4mR event looks to have a realistic chance of a medal place although others they have the mathematical possibility of snatching medals in the final two races.
The Brits currently sit in fourth, seventh and eighth across the three classes but all three boats still have the mathematical possibility of snatching medals from the clasps of the current leaders going into the final two races.
Helena Lucas in the 2.4mR one-person keelboat is arguably the Brit with the best medal shot, lying in seventh on 38 points eight points behind Heiko Kruger (GER), who currently occupies the bronze medal position.
Having only completed two races in Qingdao Friday, taking them up to eight races in total, the 2.4mR fleet will be able to discard their worst two series’ scores on completion of the next race.
With two races scheduled for all fleets Saturday, this means that the lowest points total Lucas can accrue is 30 so a mammoth effort and two top scores from her final races could yet propel her on to the podium. Lucas scored a discarded 12th and confidence-bolstering second in her races Friday. At the top of the pack Paul Tingley (CAN) has reclaimed pole position from American John Ruf, with 24 points to Ruf’s 29.
RYA Olympic Manager Stephen Park believes that a medal is still within Lucas’ grasp. He said: 'Helena has still got a chance tomorrow; it is tough ask but it is certainly doable.'
Niki Birrell and Alex Rickham in the SKUD two-person boat also only completed two of their three scheduled races today picking up a fourth and a seventh. They lie in fourth overall in the fleet on 34 points, with third-placed Australian’s Daniel Fitzgibbon and Rachael Cox on 19 points.
With another discard to come into play for the Skud’s on the completion of race nine tomorrow, the best overall points total Birrell and Rickham can finish on is 28 points. Nick Scandone and Maureen McKinnon Tucker sit pretty at the top of the pile on nine points.
Park said: 'Niki and Alex had reasonable starts and were near the front of the fleets for most of both races. But they struggled a bit on the downwind leg and in the second race they didn’t get the result they needed to make the gains on the boats ahead of them.'
Birrell added: 'We are disappointed not to be in stronger position going into the final day but we are determined to go out and finish with two bullets.' The Sonar fleet were the only fleet to complete their full schedule of three races today meaning they are now carrying two discarded scores.
Britain's John Robertson, Stephen Thomas and Hannah Stodel finished the day with 8, 6, 3 scores to put them on 38 points overall in eighth. They lie 12 points off the bronze medal position currently held by Jens Kroker, Robert Prem and Siegmund Mainka (GER). The best overall total the Brits can now amass is 40 points.
French trio Bruno Jourdren, Herve Larchant and Nicolas Vimont-Vicary lead the Sonar pack on 21 points.
Park added: 'John’s crew were struggling to get clear starts and that resulted in them having to tack away from their desired strategy. Every additional tack, especially in these conditions, means you lose distance and it just gets harder and harder. They had good downwind speed but it wasn’t enough to make the gains back.
'They, like all the sailors, have put very strong campaigns together and they are committed to finishing with the best possible final result they can.' The final racing is due to commence at 12:00 local time Saturday (05:00 British time) – no race will start later than 16:00 local time (09:00 British time).
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.