Race Day 3 - SKUD Report
Consistency Key For SKUDs In Race For Gold
Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell insist consistency will be key as they sit just a point off gold in silver medal position at the halfway stage of the London 2012 Paralympic Sailing Regatta at Weymouth and Portland (Monday 3 September).
Rickham (Epsom) and Birrell (Knutsford) picked up a stunning race win and a solid third in light conditions on day three of the event to put themselves a point behind the Australian leaders, Dan Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch, with five races still to come.
The Brits, who have won the last four World Championships, have prided themselves on their consistency across all conditions in recent years, something that definitely helped today, as light fluky breeze provided the sailors with the double test of keeping the boat going fast while contending with big swings in wind direction.
Although admitting the competition between themselves, the Australians and the American boat in third is likely to go to the wire, Birrell and Rickham believe they have got what it takes to make sure they are in with a shot at gold heading into the final deciding race day on Thursday (6 September).
Rickham said: “Over the last couple of years consistency has been our strength so we like regattas where we get a mix of conditions because where other boats may excel in certain conditions we try to keep it going steadily in all of them. We enjoy a bit of a play in light winds and it served us well today.
“Our aim is to just continue our form from the first half of the regatta, taking it slow and steady and just trying to remain in the top three. We need to keep our eye on the two other top contenders and very much focus our tactics on how the game ends up playing out on Thursday.”
Birrell said: “We have done six of the 11 races now, with five to go, with everything still to play for. Alex and I are certainly going to try all we can over the next few days to make sure we get that gold medal. A lot can go right and wrong but it’s vital that we stay within a point of the leaders because we don’t want to be starting Thursday any more than a point behind, we need to keep it in our own hands until then and if we can do that we will be happy.
“It’s all about staying calm now, we have done four years of continuous hard work so we are not going to change anything now. We are just going to sail the boat the way we know how and try to focus on what we are doing and just sail the boat the best we can at every opportunity. There is a lot of concentration needed but winning is definitely possible and while it is possible I’ll still have a smile on my face.”
After a two-hour postponement waiting for the breeze to arrive in Portland Harbour, the Brits had an awesome start in the opening race of the day, blitzing away from the line and leading from start to finish. They had to dig in in race two to ensure they remained ahead of the Canadian boat, which was challenging them for third.
Niki added: “We were absolutely delighted with the first race, we sailed really well, got a nice start, which meant we got away up the first beat and up round the mark in first position. We had good boat speed up and downwind. The second race was a touch frustrating, we were going backwards on the start line, which is not ideal, but we sailed a really good first beat to get us back into contention and we were up at second at one point but unfortunately the Americans passed us around the race track and we got a three.”
The first Paralympic sailing event took place as demonstration sport at Atlanta 1996 in the Sonar boat (plus reserve). The British crew of Andy Cassell, Kevin Curtis and Tony Downs 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 1st September to Thursday 6th September.
Two races per day are scheduled for each class from 1st to 5th September, with one race for each class on the final day (6th September). Racing is scheduled to start at 11am daily.
Follow the British Sailing Team at London 2012 at www.rya.org.uk/london2012