Daily Report: Paralympic Games – Sept. 3

Creignou and French on day 3, photo IFDS

Summary: Despite a brief wait this morning for suitable wind conditions on Portland Harbour, day three of racing at the 2012 Paralympic Sailing Regatta was anything but boring. Race organizers consolidated all three events onto one race course and completed two races for each. Jen French and JP Creignou collected two more solid finishes to maintain their third overall position in the SKUD-18 event (Two Person Keelboat), while Mark LeBlanc slipped slightly to 7th overall in the 2.4mR (One Person Keelboat). Paul Callahan, Tom Brown and Bradley Johnson are 4th in the Sonar (Three Person Keelboat). With six races completed in the 11-race series, competitors can now discard their worst finish. Results: http://www.sailing.org/paralympics/london2012/results.php

SKUD-18: Jen French and JP Creignou

Top performance of the day went to Jen French (St. Petersburg, Fla.) and JP Creignou (St. Petersburg, Fla.), who added finishes of 3rd and 2nd in the SKUD-18 fleet (Two Person Keelboat). They have discarded a 5th (race 2) and now sit one point out of second place, behind the British team of Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell. The leaders, Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch (AUS), are one point ahead.

“Both of the races were highlights,” said French back at the dock after racing. “First race there were a lot of boats over early and we ended up going back to restart. We decided to play it conservative. Knowing where we were positioned in the fleet, we went back and built ourselves back up and finished in 4th, but we actually ended in 3rd because one of the boats (CAN) was over early. That proves to us that even though we were almost dead last around the windward mark, we were able to build ourselves back up.”

French explained that the team’s training for the Games emphasized boat speed and it is one of their strengths, especially when faced with an over-early start.

“We are happy with our boat speed and when we make mistakes like that we can rely on our boat speed to get us back up,” she said. “In this light and shifty breeze it’s a big mistake and it could have cost us more. If it was heavier breeze we could have gone back and recovered better, but in this uncharacteristic light wind we had to make big gains. JP is probably better than me, but he stays calm where we’re in that position and need to get back.”

The light wind continued to shift throughout the second race. “It was boat-end favored even with the current, but there was a big crowd at the boat our priorities changed to get a clean lane off the start,” she explained of the race’s start. “Especially in light air this boat moves so slowly and it takes time to get it up to speed. We used that to our advantage and played around with top guys. That made it more exciting. We passed the Brits and played it out with the Australians. That’s what makes it fun. Between the Brits, Australians and Canadians they can all beat us. We aren’t letting our guard down and it’s going to make it interesting racing going forward.”

2.4 Metre: Mark LeBlanc

In the One Person Keelboat, Mark LeBlanc (New Orleans, La.) found the conditions challenging and he collected two race finishes of 13th and 17th to end day in 7th place overall in the 2.4mR fleet. In race 6, he finished the race in 5th place, but was called over early at the start. By not restarting the race (to clear the penalty), he was given points equal to the total number of boats, 17.

Sonar: Paul Callahan, Tom Brown and Bradley Johnson

Day two’s results in the Three Person Keelboat changed overnight when a protest changed the fleet leaders and put Team USA into second overall. Today’s best race for Paul Callahan (Cape Coral, Fla./Newport R.I.), Tom Brown (Castine, Me.) and Bradley Johnson (Pompano Beach, Fla.) was race five where they finished in 2nd

“We had a spectacular race in the first race right along with the Dutch,” said Callahan. We were really happy with that race. Tactically we were superb.”

The second race, race 6, didn’t go quite as well for them. “We didn’t get a good start and that forced us to the side of the course we didn’t want to be on,” Callahan explained. “We climbed our way through the pack and pretty much stayed in the middle. It’s pretty hard to break through top five if you’re on the wrong side of the course because everyone sails so well. We made one tactical mistake at the (final) top mark when we should have ducked Canada and we didn’t. That forced us out left and we wanted to be on the right. That’s where we lost a lot of boats. We thought we could cross them and we couldn’t. All this week there’s been a little extra breeze in the upper left corner and today there wasn’t. We should have been conservative and ducked them.”

They finished race 6 in 8th and are now in 4th overall in the fleet.

“We’re feeling really good,” said Callahan. “We’re sailing at the top of the pack and unless we make an error our boat speed is good. We’ve been top five the whole regatta and anxious to getting started tomorrow.”

Racing on Sept. 4 is scheduled to begin at 11:00 BST with the Sonar fleet, then the SKUD-18 and 2.4mR  races at 14:00.

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).

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