Daily Report: U.S. Paralympic Sailing Team – Sept. 2

French and Creignou on their way to a race win on Sept. 2, photo IFDS

Summary: Two first-place finishes by Jen French and JP Creignou in the SKUD-18 event (Two Person Keelboat) highlighted day two of competition at the 2012 Paralympic Sailing Regatta, held in Weymouth and Portland, U.K. They moved into 3rd overall, while Mark LeBlanc ended the day in 4th overall in the 2.4mR (One Person Keelboat) and Paul Callahan, Tom Brown and Bradley Johnson, in 4th in the Sonar (Three Person Keelboat).

Two races were held in each event, with 11 races total scheduled through Sept. 6. Results: http://www.sailing.org/paralympics/london2012/results.php

SKUD-18: Jen French and JP Creignou

Jen French (St. Petersburg, Fla.) and JP Creignou (St. Petersburg, Fla.) continued to add to their impressive score line by adding two first-place finishes in the very competitive SKUD-18 fleet. French cautioned that the level of competition in the Two Person Keelboat is very high and with it being early in the competition, they’re not letting up anytime soon.

“It’s tight at the top of the fleet and anything can happen,” said French after sailing. “It’s only race day two. A lot can happen, but we do know the competition is pretty fierce at the top.”

On Monday, they will wear the third-place pinnies as well as a colored dot on their mainsail to signify their fleet position. The Australia team of Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch is currently in first, while the British team of Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell is in second. Only one point separates first, second and third places., and tomorrow’s race five will allow all teams to throw out their worst score.

2.4 Metre: Mark LeBlanc

Mark LeBlanc racing on Sept. 2, photo IFDS

In the One Person Keelboat, Mark LeBlanc (New Orleans, La.) turned in a 7th and 5th to hold onto his overall 4th place. The 16-boat 2.4mR fleet is very competitive in each race, making every finish count.

“I had a so-so start in the first race,” LeBlanc said. “I got pinned out after the start and it was tough coming back. I was able to pass some boats downwind and finish 7th. I think my speed is good, but it’s different fleet racing than what we usually see. Here, everyone is looking to tack on you.”

The second race was clearly a better result for LeBlanc, one that he will look to improve upon with each race. “It’s about getting a better start” he explained. “The top of the fleet tacked twice to my six in the first minute of the race. If you can find a lane and hold it right off the starting line, you’re usually in a good position for top five.”

Overall, he noted there are seven more races to sail and while 4th overall is a good position, his goal is for more. “It’s not where I want to be,” he said. “but I have some room to improve and I plan to do that this week.”

Current fleet standings have Heiko Kroger (GER) in first, Thierry Schmitter (NED) in second, and Helena Lucas (GBR). LeBlanc is currently six points out of third place.

Photo IDFS

Sonar: Paul Callahan, Tom Brown and Bradley Johnson

For the Three Person Keelboat team of Paul Callahan (Cape Coral, Fla./Newport R.I.), Tom Brown (Castine, Me.) and Bradley Johnson (Pompano Beach, Fla.), day two was an opportunity to improve the overall points total. That’s exactly what they did with a 9th and 3rd place finishes. They’re currently in 4th place overall behind Australia, The Netherlands and France, just seven points behind.

“Today was competitive as usual,” said Johnson after racing. “It was a hard-fought battle. We were following the pressure. The key was the pressure lines. That is all today was.”

He noted that the wind pressure on the race course can be a challenge, but there is more to it depending on the conditions. “Today was still tactical, but in tomorrow’s light air, we’ll find out,” he said. “We’re playing each day as it comes. We’re used to having a lot of breeze here, but it hasn’t been that way. We’re better when we’re most focused as a team. And we are at the moment. It’s not easy. Everyone here is here because they’re great competitors and we’re proud to be part of the group.”

This evening the Team hosted a party for the large group of friends and family who have made their way from the USA to Weymouth and Portland.

Racing on Sept. 3 is scheduled to begin at 11:00 BST with the SKUD-18, 2.4mR and then the Sonar 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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