Golden girl Helena Lucas admitted “This is the dream!” after being crowned London 2012 Paralympic 2.4 Metre class champion at Weymouth and Portland today (Thursday 6 September).
Lucas – the only woman in the 2.4mR one-person keelboat fleet – claimed victory with an impressive nine-point cushion over second-placed Heiko Kroger (GER).
The Redhill-raised sailor was sat in gold medal position overnight, guaranteed at least a silver medal, with one race to come. But a lack of breeze in Portland Harbour today meant no sailing was possible ensuring that the London 2012 Paralympic 2.4mR crown went to Great Britain.
Britain hasn’t won a medal since sailing joined the full Paralympic Games programme at Sydney 2000. This medal comes in addition to the gold medal won by the British Sonar team of Andy Cassell, Kevin Curtis and Tony Downs when the first Paralympic sailing event took place as a demonstration event at Atlanta 1996.
The 37-year-old Lucas, who first sailed aged eight at Hedgecourt Lake in Surrey, also becomes the first British woman to win a Paralympic sailing gold medal.
Lucas was born with no thumbs and limited extension in her arms. She controls her boat with a tiller and foot pedals, using pedals for doing any manoeuvres so she has both hands free to pull all the ropes. Going in straight lines she switches over to using the tiller.
She said: “This is the dream, this is definitely the dream! It’s absolutely fantastic to have achieved it, I’m just really, really pleased. 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.
“I’ve got a great team behind me, the GB sailing support team is fantastic and make sure we go out on the water properly prepared, mentally and physically, and that no stone has been left unturned. Obviously my coach too, we’ve had a great week on the water and it’s been a great team effort out there. It’s fantastic.
“I would have loved to have gone out today, especially as my sponsors were down and my husband was going to watch on the water so 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 and we’ve had a superb week with a great variety of conditions so we can’t really complain.”
Three-time Worlds medallist Lucas has sailed a supremely confident regatta. She got off to a cracking start with a first and a second on the opening day. She then went on to win four of her 10 races, excelling in the light breezes that tickled Portland Harbour in the middle part of the event.
Even when the wind was a bit stronger she more than held her own and her consistency proved invaluable as she edged away from the rest of the fleet.
She added: “I had really good speed in all the conditions, which we have been working on really, really hard. I had great starts, which enabled me to use my speed and pull away from the competition. I don’t think my size has really made that much difference. If you look at the difference in size with me compared to some of my competitors really the boats go pretty much the same speed. I might have a slight advantage downwind but it’s not as massive as you think considering the size difference.”