Britain’s Sonar trio starred with a hat-trick of race wins yesterday as the breeze finally arrived for the Paralympic sailors in Rio.
Having contended with light shifty breezes for the opening two days, breeze gusting up to 23 knots greeted the 2.4mRs and SKUD18s on the Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf) course while the Sonars reveled in 12-15 knots on the Escola Naval course.
It was like all their Christmas’s had come at once for John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas in the Sonar as the Brits put the disappointment of a tough start to their event firmly to bed, leading from start to finish in each of their three races.
Most importantly their dominance lifted them to within two points of the medal positions, now sitting in fifth overall, having been 12th going into yesterday’s racing.
Thomas, however, insists the hard work really begins now for he and his three-time World Champion teammates as they bid to continue the form that has elevated them towards the right end of the leaderboard.
The Welshman said: ‘It’s a long week and we’re only just over halfway through.
‘If you look at the scores they’re shifting all over the place so we just need to be there or thereabouts come Saturday and see what happens.
‘If we’re in the medal zone at the end of the week based on the previous two days racing we will be very happy.
‘The stuff we talked about last night in our debrief got put to bed and we came out on the water today and implemented everything we wanted to, which is quite satisfying.
‘We had a plan yesterday but didn’t follow it so we talked about having confidence in the plan, believing in ourselves and realising we’ve got the pedigree.’
What looked like it was going to be a brilliant day for the SKUD duo Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell ended up tinged with disappointment as, having picked up second and first place finishes from their opening two races today, they were forced to sit race three out altogether after a problem with their jib sheet.
But with three more of the leading medal contenders also being disqualified or retiring from that same race, the Brits now sit in silver medal position, behind defending champions Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch (AUS) who lead.
Rickham said: ‘It would appear anything could happen in Rio! Potentially it could still all be to play for. We’re going to soldier on as who knows what will happen in the last five races. The Aussies look strong but you just don’t know what’s going to happen.
‘The retirement was really unfortunate as we had gained some momentum today and were really hoping to make it another top two finish for the day. We had really great boat speed across the course, up and downwind.’
Meanwhile Helena Lucas managed to hold on to the top spot in the 2.4mR class despite a tough day that she compared to being in a “washing machine” on the Sugarloaf course.
The London 2012 gold medallist was fourth and third in two races, but disqualified from the middle race in the protest room after the International Jury adjudged that she had infringed Sweden’s Fia Fjelddahl.
Having provisionally finished 10th in that race, the disqualification did not impact on the current overall standings. But Lucas is mindful that she now cannot pick up any more big scores if she is going to retain her title from four years ago.
She said: ‘Today was pretty tough, I seemed to spend most of my day doing penalty turns! I feel like I didn’t sail that well so there is a lot to work on, which is in some ways good. I think now it is about minimising mistakes, being more aware, a little bit more switched on. Keep it simple and keep it clean and no more spinning.
‘I feel like I have been thrown in a washing machine. It was massive chop, not the kind of chop that 2.4mRs particularly like, so it was incredibly wet. I’m actually cold! When are you ever cold in Brazil?’
All classes are set to resume their 11 race series with three more races scheduled today from 4pm (BST). The final series races, after which the medals will be awarded, is on Saturday 17 September.
Channel 4 is the exclusive UK Paralympic Broadcaster. However, just as for London 2012, there is no live TV feed available from sailing and eight others of the 22 Paralympic sports – action will be broadcast as discretionary highlights only.
This is a decision from the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the host broadcaster and Channel 4 can’t show what isn’t provided to them. Unfortunately this is not a decision the RYA is able to influence.
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