By Mike Rowbottom

Helena Lucas_Sept_6September 6 - Today Helena Lucas struck a blow for the home nation – and women – as she won sailing gold in the 2.4mR class as the only female in the field, and Britain secured a further bronze at the Weymouth and Portland venue as world champions Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell finished third in the SKUD class on a day when lack of winds prevented further racing.

But ParalympicsGB said they were "hugely disappointed" at a penalty incurred by the Sonar crew for what they described as "a minor off-the-water transgression" which pushed the crew of John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas (all three pictured below) down from bronze medal position to fifth.

The British crew had been just one point behind second-placed Germany but received a four-point penalty after the team bosun, Simon Hiscocks, cleaned the boat's underside without permission.

An appeal against the decision was rejected.

Hiscocks had been authorised to lift the Sonar boat out of the water after Tuesday's racing to inspect it and to repair some minor damage, but a 30 per cent discretionary penalty was imposed after the official "measurer" said he had not been authorised to clean the boat's keel.

"I fully regret that my actions have led to this situation and apologise once again to the measurer for any perceived disrespect shown while I was completing the repair on the Sonar," Hiscocks said.

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"I believe the task I was undertaking was part of the authorised repair, but clearly misunderstood the instructions of the measurer and in hindsight appreciate that my actions were inappropriate and deeply regret the impact it has had thus far on the Sonar crew."

ParalympicsGB commented: "The GB team is hugely disappointed that the medals at a Paralympic sailing event could be determined in this matter for such a minor off-the-water transgression and therefore we will continue to investigate what options are available to rectify this situation to try to ensure the medals at these Paralympic Games are determined by the talents of the athletes on the water."

Four years after finishing seventh at her Paralympic debut in Beijing, 37-year-old Lucas – who was born with defects in both her thumbs – was in gold medal position overnight, with a nine-point cushion over second-placed Heiko Kroger of Germany, and was guaranteed at least a silver medal.

Bronze went to Thierry Schmitter of the Netherlands.

But the triple world championship bronze medallist was careful not to take anything for granted having seen the Olympic experience of Team GB colleagues Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson, who were seven points ahead before the medal race but lost the gold.

"I'm certainly not getting carried away," she said before the final reckoning.

As it turned out, the lack of breeze in Portland Harbour meant she had no need to worry any further.

"There is a great sense of relief to finally fulfil my dream of winning a gold medal, but I think it will only sink in when I stand on that podium," she told BBC Sport.

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Rickham (pictured above, right), 30, is tetraplegic following a diving accident in 1995, and Birrell, 26, was born with cerebral palsy.

The pair finished fifth at the last Paralympics after teaming up in the SKUD, and have subsequently won four world titles.

SKUD gold went to the Australian pairing of Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch, with Jen French (pictured above, left) and JP Creignou of the United States taking silver.

The German team maintained their silver medal position in the Sonar, with gold going to the Netherlands and bronze being won by the Norwegian crew, who finished on 42 points with France, with the British boat three points adrift.

Britain had not won a full Paralympic Sailing medal since the sport joined the full Games programme at Sydney 2000 but the British Sonar team of Andy Cassell, Kevin Curtis and Tony Downs took gold when the sport was a demonstration event in Atlanta 1996.

Lucas added: "Beijing was a huge disappointment to us and we were all fairly new to it and made the same kind of mistakes.

"But we learned from those lessons and to come away with two medals is fantastic."

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