With podium positions riding on the line for the U.S. Paralympic Sailing Team, day 5 of the Paralympic Sailing Regatta was a crucial point in the competition. Adding to the excitement was a change in wind conditions, with 15-20 knots of wind, the most seen during the Games. Jen French and JP Creignou relished the conditions and held tight to their 2nd place overall in the SKUD-18 event (Two Person Keelboat). For Mark LeBlanc, in the 2.4mR (One Person Keelboat) and Paul Callahan, Tom Brown and Bradley Johnson, in the Sonar (Three Person Keelboat), the day didn’t bring the advanced standing they had planned for. They are in 6th and 7th overall, respectively. Two races were held in the SKUD-18 and 2.4mR, with three completed in the Sonar. Preliminary results: http://www.sailing.org/paralympics/london2012/results.php
SKUD-18: Jen French and JP Creignou
The duo of Jen French (St. Petersburg, Fla.) and JP Creignou (St. Petersburg, Fla.) continued their impressive command of the Two Person Keelboat (SKUD-18) event with race finishes of 2nd and 3rd.
They held their silver medal position in the fleet, and now have one race to seal their standing. The Australian team of Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch has a six-point lead in first, so it will be difficult to pass them in the standings. However, with a 15-point gap down to 5th place, it appears that the race will be with the British team for silver or bronze.
“The battle isn’t over with,” French cautioned. “We have to stay on top of things tomorrow. We’ll look at things differently. We’ll still sail fast. It’s still fleet racing, not match racing. We’ll stay with our same game plan that has done us well.”
2.4 Metre: Mark LeBlanc
Mark LeBlanc (New Orleans, La.) started the day strong, collecting a 2nd in race 9, however things didn’t quite go according to plan in race 10. He now finds himself in 6th place overall in the One Person Keelboat event (2.4mR).
“I had a decent start, but couldn’t do my game plan,” said LeBlanc. “I ended up on the wrong side of the first major shift and trying to claw your way back from the top guys is pretty tough. When the shift comes everyone tacks. You have to gravitate toward an edge and get a little lucky. I caught up, but it’s tough to pass.”
With the wind dying as the day went on, LeBlanc explained that shifty conditions weren’t difficult for him, but it was more that the fleet was so close together. “I’ve been fairly aggressive this whole week because I know I have to be to win,” he said. “That means pushing the starting line, and maybe taking a bigger risk. Every person ahead of me is a world champion and/or a gold medalist. There are three previous Paralympic gold medalists are ahead of me.”
Sonar: Paul Callahan, Tom Brown and Bradley Johnson
Although they started the day in 3rd place overall in the Three Person Keelboat (Sonar) event, Paul Callahan (Cape Coral, Fla./Newport R.I.), Tom Brown (Castine, Me.) and Bradley Johnson (Pompano Beach, Fla.) finished the day in 7th overall, seven points off the podium.
“It was a tough day,” said Johnson. “There’s not much else I can say about it other than it was tough.”
The Sonar fleet sailed three races, making up for the one missed on Tuesday. Race 8 was up first and with a troubling start they struggled to make up for it, and finished in 10th. That put them into 5th overall with two more races to better their position.
Race 9 was a classic tactical race, with Callahan, Brown and Johnson sailing masterfully against the fleet. They added a 3rd place to pull into 4th overall. It would be tight for the final race of the day, race 10. Despite fighting hard throughout the race, they could not get themselves a better finish than 10th.
With one race remaining, it will be up to Callahan, Brown and Johnson to better their overall position.
Thursday, Sept. 6 is the final day of racing at the 2012 Paralympic Sailing Regatta and one race is planned in each of the three Paralympic events: Three Person Keelboat (Sonar), One Person Keelboat (2.4mR) and Two Person Keelboat (SKUD-18).
Meet the Team – Mark LeBlanc
A native of New Orleans, La., Mark LeBlanc was born into a competitive sailing family. By the age of nine he began racing Optimists and by high school he was competing in the Laser and 420. At Louisiana State University, he served as the sailing club president and saw his team succeed in local fleet racing. Mark has coached at camp and youth programs throughout his sailing career, and is a source of inspiration and encouragement for people with disabilities new to the competitive sailing world.
Mark was born without the lower part of his left arm, but has always competed in sailing despite this. After hurricanes devastated coastal Louisiana and New Orleans Mark found the 2.4mR class in St. Petersburg, Fla. He chartered a boat and placed 8th out of 16 boats in his first event. Soon after, he was asked to attend practice with the U.S. Disabled Sailing Team in Miami. He purchased a new 2.4mR and began a campaign toward the 2008 Paralympic Games.
In January, Mark realized his dream of qualifying for the Paralympic Games after a disappointing finish at the 2008 Paralympic Trials in the 2.4mR. He tied on points with, and finished second to, John Ruf who went on to win the 2008 Paralympic bronze medal.
About the Paralympic Sailing Regatta
The Paralympic Regatta will be held September 1-6, 2012, in the towns of Weymouth and Portland, which are located on the southern coast of England, approximately 120 miles southwest of London. Eleven races are scheduled on Portland Harbour, with two races per day September 1-5 and one race on September 6. A total of 80 sailors will compete in three events: 2.4mR (16), SKUD-18 (22) and Sonar (42).
For more information, contact Press Officer Dana Paxton, Tel: 401-369-0490 (mobile) or email: firstname.lastname@example.org