Helena Lucas Preview
Helena Lucas is vowing to lay to rest the ghosts of Beijing 2008 to help Britain claim its first ever full Paralympic sailing medal as the London 2012 Paralympic Sailing Regatta gets underway at Weymouth and Portland on Saturday (1 September).
By her own admission, Redhill-born Lucas has tried to erase the memory of her seventh place finish in the 2.4mR (one-person keelboat) event on her Paralympic debut in China four years ago, bouncing back in style to win two World Championships medals since, including one in the London 2012 venue last year.
Lucas, who was born with no thumbs and limited extension in her arms, undertook two campaigns for the Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Olympic Games in the 470 ‘able-bodied’ class but narrowly missing out on selection for both. However, after switching to the 2.4mR Paralympic class in 2003, Portland-based Lucas hasn’t looked back. Now she is relishing the chance to put on a show on home waters.
Lucas said: “As a sailing team we all had a pretty disappointing 2008 Paralympics, it’s one of those results that you’re just like ‘Yeah wipe that from my memory!’
“The good thing is I’ve learned the lessons from that. The way you improve is by taking the lessons of what’s gone wrong and that gives you a really good platform of what needs to change.
“The whole team is looking very strong and we are all capable of coming away with a gold medal. Some people can say ‘Oh the pressure of having to perform in front of a home crowd’ but I think the support of the British public is going to be absolutely amazing. A medal here would make up for not medalling in Beijing a 1,000 times.”
The 2.4mR is sailed by just one person and is suitable for athletes ranging from the most severely disabled to the less disabled. The boat can be modified in whatever way an athlete needs with hand, foot and even mouth steering possible. This makes the racing very fair and women can also compete on a level playing field as men.
Lucas is the only female in the 16-strong 2.4mR Paralympic fleet but is undoubtedly one of the favourites for silverware.
The 37-year-old believes it is the fact Britain’s Paralympic sailors are included as part of the whole British sailing team, with access to exactly the same specialists and sports scientists as the Olympic sailors, that gives them the best chance to succeed.
She added: “The support staff and the coaching we’ve got behind us are absolutely amazing and the RYA do a fantastic job of leaving no stone unturned. There is a very professional approach to everything. We’ve got nutritionists, physios, technical support staff. They always just stay that one step ahead of the rest of the world, which is pretty hard to do when you’ve got everybody else chomping at the bit.”
The first Paralympic sailing demonstration event took place at Atlanta 1996 in the Sonar three-person keelboat (plus reserve). The British crew of Andy Cassell, Kevin Curtis, Tony Downs and Ian Harrison won gold. But a Paralympic medal has eluded Britain since sailing joined the full Paralympic Games programme at Sydney 2000.
The London 2012 Paralympic Sailing Regatta runs from Saturday 1 September to Thursday 6 September.
There are three Paralympic classes – the 2.4mR, SKUD-18 (two-person keelboat) and Sonar (three-person keelboat). Each class completes a series of 11 races. The sailors accrue points depending on where they finish in a race (ie: 1st = 1 point etc). The boat with the lowest overall score at the end of the series wins gold.
Two races per day are scheduled for each class from 1 to 5 September, with one race for each class on the final day (6 September). Racing is scheduled to start at 11am daily.