Australia and GB take a victory each on the first day of SKUD 18 racing, whilst GB's Helena Lucas leads the 2.4mR

Australia’s Dan Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch and Great Britain’s Alex Rickham and Niki Birrell opened up the Paralympic Sailing Competition with a race victory apiece on the first day SKUD18 racing.

Both crews finished one and two in both races as they set an early marker in the race for gold, ending the day tied on three points.

Fitzgibbon and Tesch took the opening bullet after a race that saw the lead change hands throughout. The Australians held the early advantage before the Brits fought back to take the lead. On the final run the Australians overtook them and won Race 1 by just three seconds.

The second race was led from start to finish by the Brits as they dominated the fleet. They reached the first mark with a 14 second lead and they never looked back, going on to win by a comfortable 17 seconds.

Canada’s John McRoberts and Stacie Louttit end the first day on seven points and currently sit in the final podium spot. Jen French and JP Creignou (USA) are just one point behind them whilst Marco Gualandris and Marta Zanetti (ITA) and a further point behind.

Top Five
1. Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell (GBR) – 3pts
2. Dan Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch (AUS) – 3pts
3. John McRoberts and Stacie Louttit (CAN) – 7pts
4. Jen French and JP Creignou (USA) – 8pts
5. Marcos Gualandris and Marta Zanetti (ITA) – 9pts

Great Britain’s Helena Lucas – the only female sailor in the 16-boat 2.4mR – had a great start to her campaign, storming to an early overall lead.

The Briton finished behind Athens 2004 gold medallist Damien Seguin (FRA) in Race 1 before going to claim her first bullet of the competition in Race 2.

Rounding the final mark in Race 2 in fourth place and 21 seconds behind the leaders it looked like the race win would go to Seguin. However Lucas pulled herself back into contention using her downwind speed to pull level with Seguin, Thierry Schmitter (NED) and Heiko Kroger (GER) as a tense race for the finish ensued.

Lucas squeezed in front of the Dutchman by one second followed by Kroker and Seguin to give the Brit an early three point lead over the Frenchman. Schmitter and Kroger are tied on seven points in third.

With experience and Paralympic medals in abundance spread across the fleet Lucas could be seen as an outsider for gold after a seventh at Beijing 2008. But she is using that memory and her home water knowledge to spur her on, “The disappointment of Beijing is a massive incentive. It feels great to be at the top, but it’s going to be tough. Every point will count.”

Top Five

1. Helena Lucas (GBR) – 3pts
2. Damien Seguin (FRA) – 5pts
3. Thierry Schmitter (NED) – 7pts
4. Heiko Kroger (GER) – 7pts
5. Mark LeBlanc (USA) – 12pts

Racing resumes tomorrow at 11:10 on the Portland Harbour Course.

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