WEYMOUTH, England –With the final day of competition at the London 2012 Paralympic Games sailing regatta cancelled due to lack of wind in Weymouth and Portland, racing results, to date, stood as final. The U.S. Paralympic Sailing Team’s Jen French and JP Creignou collected a silver medal in the SKUD-18 event (two person keelboat). Final standings for Team USA include Mark LeBlanc sixth in the 2.4mR (one person keelboat) and Paul Callahan, Tom Brown and Bradley Johnson seventh in the sonar (three person keelboat).
SKUD-18: Jen French and JP Creignou
Jen French (St. Petersburg, Fla.) and JP Creignou (St. Petersburg, Fla.) won a silver medal in the SKUD-18 by collecting consistent finishes across the 10-races series. They won three races and never finished worse than the fifth, which they discarded. This was the first Paralympic Games for both.
“It’s always fun to get more sailing in, but it’s nice to know the race committee is cognizant of getting in good racing,” said French of the decision to end racing without a final race.
Throughout the week, the pair competed at the top of the fleet, and was among the top five boats daily. “I think what made the regatta fun was that it was tight racing in the entire fleet. Hats off to Australia for their gold medal, and to the Canadians, who are our training partners. They did very well.”
Speaking about the conditions over the past week, French explained that while it was different than the past few years of training, it was a challenge. “Everyone said that Portland would be a high-wind venue,” said French. “At the end of the end of the day you had a lot of variable conditions and the top sailors who can sail in the variety of conditions are the ones that come out on top. Obviously the Aussies did the best.”
Gold went to Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch of Australia and bronze to Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell of Great Britain in the 11-boat fleet.
“Our competitors are our friends,” said Creignou. “All the people you meet and compete against. I’ll remember all those great memories from the past four years.”
2.4 Metre: Mark LeBlanc
In the One Person Keelboat event (2.4mR), Mark LeBlanc (New Orleans, La.) finished in 6th overall in the 16-boat fleet.
Over the past week, LeBlanc’s scores across the 10-race series included five top-five results, but the turning point for his overall score may have come on Day 3 when he had a disappointing day capped off with an OCS penalty for starting early in race 6.
At the conclusion of Day 5, he explained that the competition has been challenging and at the same time bittersweet. “I’ve been fairly aggressive this whole week because I know I have to be to win,” he said. “That means pushing the starting line, and maybe taking a bigger risk. Every person ahead of me is a world champion and/or a gold medalist. There are three previous Paralympic gold medalists ahead of me.”
Gold, silver and bronze went to Helena Lucas of Great Britain, Heiko Kroger of Germany and Thierry Schmitter of the Netherlands, respectively.
Although this is his first Paralympic Games, LeBlanc pointed out that he has been campaigning since 2006. “After Hurricane Katrina, all of the boats in New Orleans were wiped out,” he explained. “I was introduced to the 2.4mR and things progressed rapidly for me from there.”
Sonar: Paul Callahan, Tom Brown and Bradley Johnson
Paul Callahan (Cape Coral, Fla./Newport R.I.), Tom Brown (Castine, Me.) and Bradley Johnson (Pompano Beach, Fla.) finished the regatta only seven points off the podium.
Although the Sonar fleet completed 10 races, it is safe to say the Team was looking forward to sailing one final race. Unfortunately, with the lack of wind it was not going to be, leaving them in seventh.