Sailors Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie go by the name Team Jolly and they were just that early this morning (NZT) after they won gold in the women’s 470 at Weymouth.
The pair went into the medal race locked on equal points with Great Britain’s Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark and, with a big gap to the Netherlands in third, were guaranteed at least a silver medal.
It meant the double points medal race for the top-10 boats came down to a head-to-head battle between the two crews. It didn’t matter if they finished ninth and 10th. Whoever crossed the line first won gold.
Aleh, 26, and Powrie, 24, made no race of it. Not only did they beat the British crew, who were ninth, but they also won the race in emphatic fashion to stamp their mark on this regatta.
The gold is New Zealand’s fourth so far in these Games, and 11th overall, and the first by a keel boat since Russell Coutts (Finn) and Rex Sellers and Chris Timms (Tornado) won in Los Angeles in 1984. It is also the second medal at these Olympics following the silver picked up by Peter Burling and Blair Tuke in the 49er.
This morning’s race was virtually won before it began.
New Zealand engaged Great Britain in an aggressive pre-start but appeared to lose out and tacked away to the right-hand side of the course. Great Britain surprisingly allowed them to head off on their own and it proved a critical decision.
Aleh and Powrie built a lead over the rest of the fleet as they found good pressure, with Mills and Clark rounding the first mark a distant last.
The wind, which was a steady six knots at the beginning, died on the first downwind leg which only added to the tension. It would present opportunities if Great Britain could find a wind shift but the task for Aleh and Powrie was improved as race officials shortened the course as the breeze filled in again.
They didn’t really need the help. They raced intelligently, putting themselves in the right places, as the Brits crumbled under the pressure.
Paul Snow-Hansen and Jason Saunders finished fifth in the men’s 470 after they were seventh in the medal race tonight (NZT).
The youngsters had only the slimmest chance of picking up a medal – they needed to win the race and hope other results went their way – but the real interest was at the head of the fleet where Australia beat Great Britain in a battle for gold.