Photo: IFDS

Helena Lucas extends

As Aussies and Dutch teams lead the Skud and Sonar classes at the Paralympic Games

Tuesday September 4th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom

Helena Lucas extended her lead in the 2.4mR on day four of the London 2012 Paralympic Sailing Regatta at Weymouth and Portland today.

Redhill-raised Lucas picked up from where she left off yesterday, scoring yet another race win – her third in succession and fourth overall – which she followed up with a solid fourth in the second race of the day in the one-person keelboat class.

With eight of the 11 races now complete, Lucas, the only woman in the fleet, holds an 11-point advantage over her nearest rival, Heiko Kroger (GER) in second, with three races to come.

It was a tricky day in Portland Harbour with swinging breeze causing an initial two hour delay to the start of racing, then race abandonments and course re-sets. But Portland-based Lucas did not show any impact of that disruption once racing did get underway in earnest.

“It was a really long day," admitted Lucas. "We must have been on the water for about six hours with really shifty conditions. It was a great first race and then I had to work hard in the second race.

“In the first race it was great to be at the front with none of the other top guys as it gave me a few extra points on my rivals. Heiko won the second race, which is fine as I’ve still managed to take a couple more points off him today, which is brilliant.

“We have been working so hard on my speed so I’m happy in all conditions. Whatever it brings tomorrow I’m looking forward to it and if I can have another good day on the water it would be fantastic. I’m really enjoying the regatta, it is one hell of an experience and I’m really enjoying it!”

After the first attempt to run race seven had been abandoned, Lucas didn’t get the best start in the re-start, after the course was moved to suit the conditions better. But by the first mark she had picked her way through the fleet to round in first. With just 200m to go there was less than five metres separating her and Paul Tingley (CAN) in second place. In a nail-biting dive to the line Lucas held off the Beijing 2008 champion to secure the race win.

Race eight was insanely close with the whole fleet moving en masse up to the top mark and Lucas rounding in ninth. Again she had to use her powers of determination to claw her way as far up the pack as possible, making up five places between mark two and the end of the race.

As Lucas explained: “In the second race it was a case of a bit of a bad start and then I sort of bounced around a little bit. I had to just refocus and work out what I was going to do, what are the priorities and just simplify it. My number one priority was to just try to get clear of all the traffic and sail fast, settle down and then see how it was panning out. By doing that it got me back in the hunt and it was then just a case of looking for those opportunities to pass boats. People make mistakes and that’s your opportunity to pounce and get past them.”

In the Skud 18, Australian sailors Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch have extended their lead. They took a slender one point lead over their British opponents into races seven and eight but a second and a first have allowed them to open up a four point lead over the USA and Great Britain.

The Australians found themselves back in fourth at the top mark for the first time on Tuesday, picking up positions at each mark rounding to eventually cross the line second behind the Americans.

With the breeze building to around 10 knots for the start of the next race Fitzgibbon and Tesch got off to a good start and pushed on from there, leading at each mark to take the win by almost a minute.

“Today was a really long day on the water, we were out there for six hours,” said Fitzgibbon. “We got two races away early but both were abandoned due to the erratic wind direction and strength. Finally the course was moved and we got two races completed. In the first we didn’t have a great start but consolidated our position to round the top mark fourth. From there we fought hard to claw our way back to second behind the Americans at the finish.

“The second race start was much better for us and we rounded the first mark in the lead. The British were close behind us and we battled the fleet for the whole race, holding on for the win. We now hold a four point lead over both the American and British teams who are tied for second. We’re happy with this position and we just have to keep going for another two good races tomorrow.”

British Skud sailors Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell admitted it had been a “tough” day but that there was still everything to play for as the sit in bronze medal position.

After having their first race of the day abandoned twice while in promising positions, the Brits then picked up fourth and second places.

Rickham said: “It was a tough day because we lost quite a lot of points on the leaders and we have been moved down into the third overall. But it is still all to play for. All in all we are feeling quite good and we will just see how it goes. We are deep in it with three races still to go so there is still a bit to play for and we are just going to hopefully make something happen and if not we will just be happy with whatever we come away with.”

The Sonars are set to do three races tomorrow after they only managed to get one of their two scheduled races completed today.

The British team of John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas insist that the three-person keelboat class medals are “still anybody’s game” as they ended today in sixth overall, four points off the medals with four scheduled races remaining.

The first attempt to run race seven was abandoned on the second leg with the Brits laying in sixth. The trio then had to be at their determined best once racing re-started as they rounded the first mark in ninth and edged their way back up to finish in sixth.

Stodel said: “It was the right call to abandon the race. We came round the windward mark and it was a 20 degree wind shift at least, then it all changed again so I’m quite glad it was abandoned. Fair racing is better than that craziness! It was a good day I think, if you look at the scores the right people were behind us. It’s anybody’s game at the moment. There is no way it is over. We are going to race to the very, very end because absolutely anything can change at the moment.”

Runaway leaders in the Sonar with an 11 point lead over the second placed German team are the Dutch trio of Udo Hessels, Marcel van de Veen and Mischa Rossen.

Full results here for the 2.4mR, Skud 18 and Sonar.

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