HELENA Lucas is vowing to lay to rest the ghosts of Beijing 2008 to help Britain claim its first ever Paralympic Sailing medal at the home Games.
Practice racing is scheduled to take place in Portland Harbour today ahead of the start of the London 2012 Paralympic Sailing Regatta tomorrow.
Redhill-born Lucas, who now lives on Portland, admits she has tried to erase the memory of her seventh place finish in the 2.4mR one-person keelboat event on her Paralympic debut in China four years ago.
She has since won two IFDS World Championships medals, including one at the borough’s Paralympic sailing venue last year, and earlier this summer claimed the silver medal at the Skandia Sail for Gold regatta.
Lucas, who was born without thumbs and limited extension in her arms, initially campaigned in the able-bodied Olympic 470 class but after narrowly missing out on Team GB selection for the Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Olympic Games, switched to the 2.4mR Paralympic class in 2003.
This year’s ParalympicsGB sailing squad features the same athletes selected for the Beijing 2008 Games.
Lucas said: “As a sailing team we all had a pretty disappointing 2008 Paralympics, it’s one of those results that you’re just like ‘Yeah wipe that from my memory!’ “The good thing is I’ve learned the lessons from that.
“The way you improve is by taking the lessons of what’s gone wrong and that gives you a really good platform of what needs to change.
“The whole team is looking very strong and we are all capable of coming away with a gold medal.
“Some people can say ‘Oh the pressure of having to perform in front of a home crowd’ but I think the support of the British public is going to be absolutely amazing.”
Lucas is the only woman in the 16-strong 2.4mR Paralympic fleet and one of the favourites for silverware.
Lucas, 37, is looking forward to today’s practice race as ‘it helps to get rid of the pre-regatta nerves’.
She believes the fact that Britain’s Paralympic sailors have access to exactly the same Royal Yachting Association (RYA) specialists and sports scientists as their Olympic teammates will give them the best chance to succeed. Lucas added: “The support staff and the coaching we’ve got behind us are absolutely amazing.”
80 ATHLETES TO COMPETE
A MEDAL has eluded Britain since sailing joined the full Paralympic Games programme at Sydney 2000.
The London 2012 Paralympic Sailing Regatta will run from Saturday September 1 to Thursday September 6, from 11am daily in Portland Harbour.
A total of 80 athletes will compete in three medal events – the 2.4mR one-person keelboat, Skud-18 two-person keelboat and Sonar three-person keelboat.
Each class completes a series of 11 races – with two races per day for five days and then one final race on the Thursday.
The sailors with the lowest scores achieved over the series will win gold as coming first equals one point, second equals two and so on. See www.rya.org.uk/london2012