The Princess Royal steps in for the Queen at the Paralympic star's investiture

Paralympic sailing champion Helena Lucas enjoyed a ‘great day’ when she collected her MBE from Buckingham Palace.

The 2.4mR keelboat sailor beat all her male rivals at the London 2012 Games to claim Britain’s first Paralympic sailing gold medal.

Helena received an MBE for services to sailing from Princess Anne at Buckingham Palace this morning, as the Queen is still recovering from a recent illness.

The 37-year-old, who lives in Portland, Dorset said: ‘It was a lovely day, just great to be there with my Mum and Dad, and husband Steve.

‘It was such an honour to receive the MBE from Princess Anne.

‘As my mum said, if it couldn’t be the Queen, Princess Anne was the next choice as she’s so well connected with sailing and obviously very knowledgeable.

‘I had a chat with her about the boat, it was very nice.’

Helena was dressed to impress in a Star by Julien MacDonald leopard print dress with red edging and a J by Jasper Conran jacket, plus black high heels and fascinator – all courtesy of Debenhams department store, which kitted Helena out with the outfit last Thursday.

The gold medallist added: ‘Thanks to Debehams for coming to the rescue as I didn’t know what to wear. I absolutely love my dress and got a lot of nice comments today about the dress and my fascinator.

‘There were about 80 people collecting their MBEs. We were arranged in groups of 10 and there was quite a lot of waiting around but that was because Princess Anne spent a long time talking to each person, which was lovely.

‘We got there about 10am and left about 1pm, then my family and I went for a nice lunch in a South African restaurant just along from Buckingham Palace.’

Follow Helena’s Twitter account @hlucasgbr