New Zealand 470 sailors into gold medal spot

FRED WOODCOCK IN WEYMOUTH
Last updated 05:30 08/08/2012
Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie
Reuters

CHASING GOLD: New Zealand's women's 470 crew Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie moved into gold medal position with wins in races seven and eight in Weymouth, with three races remaining.

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New Zealand 470 sailors Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie found perfection on the waters of Weymouth today as they moved into gold medal position with three races remaining.

The Kiwis won both races on the Harbour course - the seventh and eighth of the regatta - to slip past the British team of Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark and assume top spot.

The two bullets (race wins) have them on 21 points, four ahead of the Brits who were fifth and second today. The Dutch crew of Lisa Westerhof and Lobke Berkhout were fourth and third and are still right in the regatta, on 28 points.

But there is a big drop to the fourth-placed French and on today's form, you'd expect the three medals to go to the top three teams as it stands. It's the order which is up in the air.

"It was good racing, flat water and a bit gusty and shifty. It's a bit strange at times sailing a short course with more laps,'' skipper Aleh said.

"Still, a lot can change and we've just got to keep doing what we do."

There are another two qualifying races tomorrow with the double-point medal race at midnight on Friday (NZ time).

"We've just got to keep ticking along," Powrie said.

"Today we just stuck with the basics and tried to get each bit right."

However, the news is not so good for the New Zealand men's 470 crew of Paul Snow-Hansen and Jason Saunders, who have all but sailed out of medal contention today.

They could only manage 13th and 12th from the final two qualifying races and dropped well off bronze medal pace with only the double-point medal race remaining, tomorrow night (NZ time), although they remained in fifth overall.

In order for them to snatch the most unlikeliest of bronze medals, they'd have to win the top-10 medal race and hope third-placed Argentina finished ninth or 10th, and fourth-placed Italy finished seventh or worse.

But just beating the Australians and Brits, who have streaked the field here this week, would be a monumental upset in itself.

Those two outstanding crews will battle for gold and silver, with world champion Aussies Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page taking a crucial four-point advantage into it.

Meanwhile, JP Tobin's men's RS:X windsurfing campaign came to a muted end today as he finished eighth in the medal race, and seventh overall.

The 35-year-old former world No 1 and 2012 world championship bronze medallist had hopes of defending the Olympic title won by compatriot Tom Ashley in Beijing four years ago in his long-awaited Games debut, but never fired.

"I had one day where it looked like I might pick things up but I just didn't quite fire," he said.

Dutchman Dorian van Rijsselberge, Tobin's good mate and training partner, easily won gold.

HOW THE KIWI SAILORS ARE FARING IN WEYMOUTH

Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie, women's 470, 1st (three races remaining)

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, 49er, 2nd (one race remaining, silver secured)

Paul Snow-Hansen and Jason Saunders, men's 470, 5th (one race remaining)

Hamish Pepper and Jim Turner, Star, 5th

Andrew Murdoch, Laser, 5th

JP Tobin, men's RS:X windsurfer, 7th

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Dan Slater, Finn, 7th

Stephanie Hazard, Jenna Hansen and Susannah Pyatt, women's match racing, 9th

Sara Winther, Laser Radial, 20th

- Fairfax Media

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