The Kiwi 470 girls take Gold in the 470 medal race as the British girls take Silver
As British 470 girls went head to head for Gold it was a match race from the start, Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark only had to beat the Kiwis to take Gold. The pre-start match racing was fast, close and furious but as the gun went both boats were clear of penalties but it was the British girls who gained the better start.
The Kiwis had been forced out to the right hand side of the course, the British girls to the left. As the separation between the pair increased nerves jangled as the Kiwis were benefiting from the right hand side.
Half way up the first beat the Kiwis Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie were leading, Mills and Clark were in seventh. Not ideal for the Brits but as they’ve proved throughout this series, one of their strengths is climbing back to the front. Could they do it this time?
As they closed into the windward mark the prospects looked poor as Mills and Clark were in 10th. The right hand side had paid and the Brits had been hung out to dry on the left.
At the windward mark the Kiwis rounded in the lead, the Brits were last, but the breeze had dropped significantly and shifted as well causing the committee to re-set the leeward gate, would this provide an opportunity for Mills and Clark to get back into the race?
On the downwind leg the breeze appeared slightly stronger on the right hand side of the course where the Kiwis had headed, the Brits remained on the left hand side, they could do little else, following the Kiwis track was never going to get them back in the race. But sadly neither was trying the other side. As the Kiwis crossed on the run they were more than 300m ahead.
Meanwhile the conditions had softened sufficiently for the race committee to have shortened the next lap as the weather mark was moved closer to the bottom. The runway had just got significantly shorter.
By the next downwind leg there was no change. Captured by the on board cameras and microphones there was chatter between Aleh and Powrie but silence aboard the British boat.
By the finish the Kiwis secured a well deserved Gold medal in a battle that had been a needle match throughout the Games but had ended win anything but.
As the Kiwis celebrated as they crossed the line, a matronly hug from Saskia Clark comforted her helmswoman said it all, consolation from someone who had experienced huge disappointment in 2008.
“I think we feel a bit gutted as we didn’t put a good show on,” said Clark after the race. “We didn’t follow them out there and half way up the first beat we knew the Gold medal had gone from us.”
But for the Kiwis the day had delivered their dream.
“I can’t believe it”, said Olivia Powrie after the race.
“I guess we just tried to turn it into a practice race in our minds,” said her helmswoman Jo Aleh. “Yachting has been struggling at home for a while so it’s really awesome to bring one back.”
When the girls stepped ashore Mills was quick to admit to how she felt about the result.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m so, so happy to have won a Silver medal but right now I guess I just feel a bit raw,” she said as she struggled to keep her emotions in check. “The one mistake we made we got punished pretty hard for and there was no way back into the race.”
“A quarter of the way into that race we knew it was over for the Gold medal,” said Clark. “When we teamed up in Feb 2007 we were scrapping to get selected. We’ve gone from strength to strength and have achieved things internationally that are new for 470 women and we are proud of that, especially as I have been trying to do it for a long time.”
So would they be back for Rio?
There was a pause and a smile on both……
“We’ve already made the deal over there,” said Saskia as she pointed towards the slipway that had seen their Silver exit from 2012. Their ramp to Rio had launched their next campaign.
Gold – NZL – Jo Aleh & Olivia Powrie
Silver – GBR – Hannah Mills & Saskia Clark
Bronze – NED – Lisa Westerhof and Lobke Berkhout