2016 Paralympic Sailing: Australia Threatens Medal Sweep

The Aussies lead all three Paralympic fleets with one day of preliminary racing remaining.

Paralympic Sailing 2016

Rio 2016 Paralympic Sailing Competition

Australia's Matt Bugg wrestled the lead away from Great Britain's Helena Lucas in an exciting final race on Thursday.Richard Langdon/World Sailing

The Australian Paralympic Sailing Squad had a banner day yesterday and now lead all three of the Paralympic fleets. The most exciting race of the day goes to the 2.4mR class and Australia's Matt Bugg, who bested friendly rival Helena Lucas (GBR) in a photo finish for the final race of the day.

"The last race was all going quite well," says Lucas in a World Sailing statement. "I was feeling quite chilled, playing the shifts and then literally, I was keeping an eye on Damien, the French guy, because he was second and I didn't really think I needed to worry too much about Matt. But literally I looked over and he's got this massive lift and caught up loads. We went around neck and neck at the top mark and then down the run it was neck and neck. Across the finish I caught a wave and surged forwards and I thought I'd got it so it was that close." However, it was Bugg who took the win, and it vaulted him ahead of Lucas in the standings for the first time in the regatta, with a one point lead. Damien Seguin (FRA) is in third place behind the rivals, with Dee Smith (USA) in fourth.

2016 Paralympic Sailing

Rio 2016 Paralympic Sailing Competition

Great Britain's Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell are tied for points with second place Canada and will look to best the Canadian's score on Friday to solidify a silver medal.Richard Langdon/World Sailing

In the SKUD-18, Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch (AUS), continue to dominate the class and solidified their lead, winning both races on Thursday. Of eight races completed so far, they have six bullets on their scorecard. Canada's John McRoberts and Jackie Gay, and Great Britain's Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell sit in second and third, respectively, tied at 23 points. It will take a disaster of epic proportions for the Canadians or Brits to unseat the Aussies.

"It could happen and it does happen," says Gay to World Sailing. "But, we are just looking to maximize our performance and finish off this regatta as we started.Tomorrows plan will be to stay clean. No one wants letters on the scorecard. People want numbers. So, race clean is our thing. We never do that engaging thing anyway, we just race our race and do what we do best and sail hopefully."

The Brits will have to better the Canadian's scores to take silver, but not far behind are Monika Gibes and Piotr Cichocki (POL). Sitting in fourth on 29 points, the Polish team took a second and a third to edge ever closer to the podium positions.

2016 Paralympic Sailing

Rio 2016 Paralympic Sailing Competition

The Australian Sonar Squad has a ten-point lead over second-place USA. With one day of racing to go in the preliminary series, the Aussies will be looking to improve this point gap on Friday.Richard Langdon/World Sailing

The American Sonar squad, Rick Doerr, Brad Kendell and Hugh Freund, defended their second place position on Thursday, and now have a ten point gap behind Australia's Colin Harrison, Russell Boaden and Jonathan Harris. A US Sailing Team Statement describes the day for the team:

"The Americans engineered a dramatic comeback in the first race, before finishing a close second place in the next race. "On the first race, we just got trapped on the wrong side of the course on the second upwind leg, and lost some boats." said Kendell. Finding themselves in 13th place out of 14 boats, the 2016 Para Sailing World Champions kept calm and worked their way methodically back up through the fleet. "We did a much better job with the current and breeze on the last upwind leg, and finished 7th," said Freund. With each point being especially valuable on a crowded leaderboard, the impressive comeback could prove important to Doerr, Kendell and Freund in the final stage of the event

The US team led for most of the second race before narrowly taking second behind the Canadians. "We just couldn't get right fast enough after the last leeward gate," said Kendell. "At the start, we got mixed up with another boat, but we were able to tack out right away and get to the right side of the course, where we wanted to go anyway."'

Racing continues Friday, September 16 at 1300 local time for the final day of preliminary racing, and medal races will be held on Saturday. For full results, live updates and a live blog, visit sailing.org