The Paralympic Sailing Regatta finished with a bit of a whimper when sailing was called off due to lack of wind on the final medal race day. However, it was a historic day for the British team, which won its first Paralympic medals since the sport was fully introduced at the 2000 Games (although the British Sonar team of Andy Cassell, Kevin Curtis and Tony Downs took gold when Sailing was a demonstration event at Atlanta in 1996).

Helena Lucas wins gold in the 2.4mR class

Helena Lucas wins gold in the 2.4mR class

Gold for Lucas
With sailing abandoned, the standings after the fleet races decided the medals, which meant a stunning gold medal for GBR's Helena Lucas – the only woman in the 2.4mR one-person keelboat event.

Lucas said: “This is the dream, this is definitely the dream! It’s absolutely fantastic to have achieved it, I’m just really, really pleased. One of the key things all week was to try to stay out of the protest room, keep it simple, keep it clean and try not to get any disqualifications or false starts.

“I’ve got a great team behind me, the GB sailing support team is fantastic and make sure we go out on the water properly prepared, mentally and physically, and that no stone has been left unturned. Obviously my coach too, we’ve had a great week on the water and it’s been a great team effort out there. It’s fantastic.”

Bronze for the Skud team
Meanwhile, in the Skud two-person keelboat class, Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell took bronze.
Alex Rickham said: “Clearly I am going to be a bit disappointed and gutted by how things have gone this week. But I didn’t want to go back to London to see the rest of the ParalympicsGB team without a medal as last time we went back to Beijing from Qingdao as one of the only ones without a medal because the team did so well.

“It’s nice to just get a medal for Paralympic sailing in Britain because the fact is that we haven’t done the job for the last few Games so we’re just proud to be part of that contingent that has managed to break the duck.”

Niki Birrell said: “The way I always talk about this stuff with my Dad is that there are three tiers; there’s no medal, there’s a gold medal and a medal. So we would have obviously have preferred a silver but at least we’re taking something back. Even if we would have come second we wouldn’t have won so it wouldn’t have been that much better. Everyone did so well in Beijing and we contributed nothing, it was horrible, so this time it was absolutely essential that we got a bronze.”

Bitter disappointment
It was a bitterly disappointing day for Team GB in the Sonar three-person keelboat event. John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas were lying in the bronze medal position until a penalty for unauthorised cleaning of the bottom of their boat - apparently performed when their support crew carried out an authorised repair to the keel. The penalty saw the team drop to fifth, and when racing was abandoned, their hopes of clawing their way back into the medals were dashed.

The RYA seem to hold some hope that the penalty can be overturned, although sadly this seems highly unlikely. RYA Olympic Manager Stephen Park said: “We are trying to get the hearing reopened because we think there were some significant errors by the jury and some errors in the way they have interpreted the rules.

“When you get to any situation where the athletes' scorecard is being altered through a misunderstanding between two shore staff, one of which is a technical official and one of which is a team support staff, about something that doesn’t have any impact on performance it is a sad day for the sport.

“We think that frankly, irrespective of the outcome, we need to make sure that this is rectified for the future. Obviously in the process we will be doing everything we can to get the hearing addressed appropriately and get John, Hannah and Steve the bronze medal that they deserve before the jury decision took it away from them.”

Written by: Gael Pawson
Gael Pawson is the editor of Yachts & Yachting Magazine and the founder of Creating Waves. A keen racer, she has sailed all her life, and started writing about the subject whilst studying journalism at university. Dinghies and small keelboats are her first loves, but she has cruised and raced a huge variety of boats in locations across the world.