Great Britain’s 2008 Beijing Paralympic sailing campaign has ended in disappointment in Qingdao. Britain’s sailors went in to the final day of the six-day regatta still harbouring slender hopes of medals in all three classes, but despite their huge efforts and some outstanding last day performances, the Brits ended in fifth, sixth and seventh overall across the three fleets.
The British Sonar three-person keelboat crew of John Robertson, Stephen Thomas and Hannah Stodel went into the final day of racing 12 points off the podium in eighth place, and pulled out all the stops in their final two races to finish second in race 10 before rounding off their campaign with a hard-earned race 11 victory.
But although their mammoth last day effort saw them considerably cut the gap on the boats ahead of them in the overall standings it was not enough to force their way on to the podium and they finished sixth overall – their same result as at Athens 2004 – on 41 points just five points off a medal.
The Sonar event was won by German crew of Jens Kroker, Robert Prem and Siegmund Mainka who produced the upset of the day snatching gold from the week-long leaders Bruno Jourdren, Herve Larhant, and Nicolas Vimont-Vicary (FRA) at the death courtesy of the French crew scoring a final race DNF.
The SKUD two-person keelboat team of Niki Birrell and Alex Rickham ended their first Paralympics with a fifth overall, scoring a seventh and fourth today to close the regatta on 37 points. The SKUD class was won by American’s Nick Scandone and Maureen McKinnon Tucker.
Meanwhile, Helena Lucas in the 2.4mR one-person keelboat had to settle for a seventh place overall finish on her Paralympics debut, posting scores of 8,5 today to also end on 41 points. Gold was won by Canada’s Paul Tingley. Stephen Park, RYA Olympic Manager, admits medals were a big ask going into the final day of racing but believes that the Brits have shown enough this week and at the Paralympic Test Event in May to be optimistic looking ahead to London 2012.
He said: 'We are obviously disappointed that the results throughout the week have not been as good as we had hoped they would be but we have high quality sailors that have put together strong campaigns and made huge efforts in covering all the necessary bases in their respective build ups to the Games.
'When we look at the team’s preparation for the event there are very few areas where we feel we have come up short.
'We always knew that Qingdao was going to be a difficult venue for both the Olympics and Paralympics. At the Olympics we maybe won one or two more medals than we were expecting after what was a difficult opening week where as at the Paralympics we have lost out. 'At the Paralympic Test Event, with the same sailors, the same boats and the same set-ups and routines, the sailors showed they are more than capable of delivering at this level, coming away with two golds and a fourth. But for various reasons we didn’t deliver the required results this week and that is a disappointment to everyone in the team. Now we have to regroup and look ahead to 2012.'
John Derbyshire, RYA Racing Manager/Performance Director: added: 'The conditions in Qingdao were always going to difficult for all the sailors, both at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and we still believe that the campaigns the Paralympians put together were as professional and complete as they possibly could have been to have given them the best chance of winning medals.
'The sailors and their support teams, who have given a massive commitment, will be deeply disappointed. 'At the RYA, we will need to look long and hard to see what lessons can be learned. Inevitably, UK Sport, who run a ‘money-means-medals’ World Class funding programme, will review funding for the Programme for the next four years.
'The UK Sport programme is a results-driven programme and about delivering medals, which on this occasion we have not done. The next few months will be challenging but we remain committed to success in the UK in 2012.'