Cool heads key for Kiwis in race for sailing gold
Coach Nathan Handley hopes the training hours Kiwi 470 sailors Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie have spent in match racing scenarios against the New Zealand men's crew pay dividends in tonight's mouth-watering Olympic gold medal race.
It's the Kiwi girls against Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark, the current world champions from Britain, in the double-point medal race at midnight (NZT) in Weymouth.
The equation is simple - the first of those two crews across the line wins Olympic gold, the other settles for silver, providing they're not disqualified.
It essentially becomes a match race between Aleh and Britain's pint-sized helm Mills. If the heat goes on, former Olympic sailor Handley, who coaches the Kiwis, hopes they'll be able to fall back on the training hours spent racing against the Kiwi men's 470 crew, Paul Snow-Hansen and Jason Saunders.
"Yeah I guess we'd like to think so," he said, when asked if that would give the New Zealanders an advantage.
"We've done a bit of match racing at home in training, because the fleets are so small in New Zealand. They've had some good battles with the guys, so hopefully that holds them in good stead."
Powrie has competitive match race experience. In fact, she's the reigning national champion, having beaten New Zealand's Olympic match racing helm, Stephanie Hazard, in 2011.
She'll know the rules intricately, whereas the Brits have been cramming in some last minute study to ensure they don't make a fatal mistake.
Handley said Aleh, 26, and Powrie, 24, had been sailing well and "just need to keep cool heads" tonight.
"They've had their ups and downs but there have been more ups than downs, which is always the key and they seem to be coping pretty well," he said.
"We're just keeping everything the same, with the same routines. Not a lot has changed. They're rapt to have won a medal but we came here to win gold and the job's not done."
According to forecasts, conditions could be light tonight. The Kiwis prefer a bit of breeze but Handley said, in a match race situation, shifty winds were not as big a factor.
Mills appeared slightly concerned at their lack of match race experience but they would be doing everything they could to get up to speed with the rules.
"We did three days before this in build-up, just going over the basics, but neither of us are particularly specialised in match racing, so we'll definitely be going over the rules," the engaging 24-year-old from Cardiff said.
"We just need to focus on ourselves but obviously we'll both be keeping a big eye on each other."