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Helena Lucas (GBR) guaranteed herself a spot on the 2.4mR podium at the London 2012 Paralympic Sailing competition with one race to go.
With bigger winds on the penultimate day Lucas had her worst day of the regatta so far with an eighth and a fifth place finish in the days races. Despite a race win apiece from Heiko Kroger (GER) and Thierry Schmitter (NED), in second and third, they were unable to drastically reduce Lucas' 11 point overnight lead after poor results in the other races.
Kroger came down in 10th in Race 9 and whilst Schmitter's sixth brought the gap between him and Kroger to two points, Lucas' lead was only shortened to nine. The Brit can afford to finish in ninth place on the final day to claim the first British Paralympic sailing gold medal.
At the start of the first race, Lucas was well back in 13th place on part of the first leg but the only woman in the fleet must have been even more disappointed when reigning Olympic champion Paul Tingley (CAN) arrived at the first mark to slip ahead of her. He had earlier been pinned close to the starting boat and was forced to set out way behind the rest of the fleet. Lucas rounded in 10th place.
Schmitter, who held the third position in the regatta overall at the start of racing, led at the first mark and Damien Seguin (FRA), fourth-placed in the regatta, rounded in sixth. More heartening for Lucas was the sight of Kroger trailing behind her in 13th position.
By the second mark, Schmitter was still leading, followed by LeBlanc, but by now Lucas had overtaken Canada's Tingley. As she rounded in ninth position she would have seen her important rivals falling further behind her; Tingley to 12th and Kroger in 13th.
Schmitter and LeBlanc were still leading at the third mark and SEGUIN had moved up to third place. LUCAS rounded eighth but now her close rivals were right on her tail, Tingley eight seconds behind and Kroger 21 seconds further back. On the final downwind run to the line, Lucas managed to hold back Tingley to keep eighth place, but only by five seconds, and Kroger followed them in 10th. Schmitter finished first, followed by LeBlanc and Seguin.
In the second race of the day Tingley sailed cleanly away from the start, taking the right-hand side, chased by Lucas, who left Kroger to lead a pack heading left. Tingley was leading by the first mark, followed by Schmitter, with Lucas slotted into fourth place ahead of Kroger. But at the first mark all the main medals rivals were within 17 seconds of one another at the top of the fleet. A collision took Matthew Bugg (AUS) and Niko Salomaa (FIN) out of the race and the fleet swept on with most of Lucas's important rivals slotting into position ahead of her.
At the second mark, Norway's Bjornar Erikstad led the way, with Lucas forced to watch Tingley, Kroger and Schmitter rounding ahead of her. At the third mark, Lucas's rivals piled on the pressure, pushing her into sixth position, with Seguin joining the line ahead of LUCAS as they entered the final leg.
On the fast downwind, Lucas pulled into fourth place at one point, ahead of Tingley. She then blocked Schmitter, but Tingley slipped over the line ahead of her in third behind winner Kroger and second-placed Seguin.
Results after Day 5: (top five, 10 races)
1. Helena Lucas (GBR) - 26pts
2. Heiko Kroger (GER) - 35pts
3. Thierry Schmitter (NED) - 37pts
4. Damien Seguin (FRA) - 44pts
5. Paul Tingley (CAN) - 47pts
Disabled Sailing London 2012 Paralympic Website