Helena lands historic gold

Great Britain's 2.4 sailor Helena Lucas celebrates her gold medal
Great Britain's 2.4 sailor Helena Lucas celebrates her gold medal
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Britain won its first ever Paralympics sailing medals yesterday when Hampshire’s Helena Lucas took gold and Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell bronze in Weymouth.

Light winds saw the final day’s sailing cancelled, leaving Lucas first in the 2.4mR class and Rickham and Birrell third in the SKUD18.

But there was also disappointment when the British Sonar trio finished fifth after they were controversially penalised four points.

John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas were lying in the bronze-medal position until they picked up a penalty when a team member cleaned their boat’s underside without authorisation

Lucas’ victory in the single-handed small keelboat, however, was decisive and she finished nine points ahead of Germany’s Heiko Kroger.

She said: ‘This is the dream, this is definitely the dream. It’s absolutely fantastic.

‘One of the key things all week was to try to stay out of the protest room, keep it simple, keep it clean and try not to get any disqualifications or false starts.

‘We’ve had a great week – it’s been a great team effort out there. It’s fantastic.

‘It would have been really nice to have gone out and just finished the regatta off and had some celebrations on the water.

‘But you can’t control the weather. We’ve had a superb week, so can’t really complain.’

The 37-year-old – the only woman in the 2.4mR fleet – was born with defects in both thumbs and has limited extension in her arms.

She controls her boat’s tiller with foot pedals, so she has both hands free to pull sail control lines.

Rickham and Birrell, meanwhile, were only two points off a silver medal.

And the Sonar crew were just one point behind second-placed Germany before receiving the four-point penalty.

The team’s bosun, Simon Hiscocks, himself a double Olympic medallist in the 49er, had been cleared to lift the boat out of the water after Tuesday’s racing to repair minor damage.

But a penalty was imposed after the official measurer said he had not been authorised to clean the keel.

An appeal was rejected.