Lucas lands historic sailing gold

  • Last Updated: September 6 2012, 17:23 BST

Helena Lucas could not hide her relief after securing Paralympic gold on a historic day for British sailing.

Helena Lucas: Historic gold medal

Team GB is the most successful nation in Olympic sailing history but, somewhat surprisingly, their Paralympic counterparts came into London 2012 without a medal since the sport's introduction 12 years ago.

However, that barren spell was ended on Thursday as, with the final race of the series cancelled due to a lack of wind, medals were awarded on the standings after the opening 10 races.

As a result, Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell took SKUD bronze and Lucas won gold in the 2.4mR class after a week of domination from the only woman in the 16-boat fleet.

"Oh gosh, at the moment is just a sense of relief," she said.

"A lot of years have gone into this and finally, finally I have done it.

"I am obviously immensely happy and I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone that has supported me.

"The RYA's support team has been great and Rob Wilson, who has made sure I have been well prepared.

"Ian Barker has been a massive part and helped improved my speed. I have to say a massive thank you as well to my friends and family.

"It has been a fantastic week and in a variety of conditions. Being able to go out every day knowing I will be quick going off the start line is such a boost."

Such speed and success irked some of her male counterparts at the start of the regatta, but Lucas believes that has now turned to begrudging admiration.

"I am so used to going up against the guys I forget," she said.

"I feel like one of the lads sometimes.

"You can tell they weren't too happy by the start of the week, but they got to terms with by the middle of it as I was sailing well.

"They are all very happy for me now."

Rickham and Birrell had been disappointed last night to be down in bronze position, but today were just happy to have a medal

"For the team it was absolutely essential that one of the three classes got a medal and luckily this time we got two," Birrell told Channel 4.

"I'm really pleased to have a bronze. Yesterday I was really upset because I didn't sail as well as I should have done.

"I'm really pleased to be taking a medal home with me. It will be nice to show the friends and family what a Paralympic medal looks like, which we failed to do in China."

Rickham added: "For the team it's a huge thing. They've put a lot of time and effort into us to get here and for us it's a somewhat quelled pang after Beijing.

"It was a hard week for us on the water, but we're both really, really happy.

"We didn't want to go back to London without something in our pockets because it's a bit difficult in ParalympicsGB - there's so many medals that you feel really left out if you turn up and you're not part of the crowd."

With medals in the 2.4mR and SKUD classes, Great Britain only missed out on the podium in the Sonar as the cancellation of race 11 put paid to their hopes.

John Robertson, Stephen Thomas and Hannah Stodel would have won bronze had they not received a four-point penalty last night for a rule infringement, which dropped them down to fifth overall.

After a request to re-open the case was rejected overnight, the British team saw a further protest against the international jury fail on Thursday.

Norway took bronze instead of the British trio, while silver went to Germany and gold to the indomitable Dutch team of Udo Hessels, Marcel van de Veen and Mischa Rossen.

The latter trio already had top spot confirmed heading into the final day's racing, just as Australia's Dan Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch had in the SKUD class.

Jen French and JP Creignou of the United States took silver ahead of the British crew, while Heiko Kroger of Germany and Dutchman Thierry Schmitter finished second and third respectively in the 2.4mR class.