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Breakthrough year for NZ women's sailing

FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 05:00 29/12/2012
Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/FAIRFAX NZ
GOLDEN GIRLS: Olympic sailors Jo Aleh, left, and Polly Powrie.

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There is little doubt that 2012 will be remembered in sailing circles as the year that Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie made a significant breakthrough for women's sailing.

Not only had it been 20 years since New Zealand had won an Olympic medal in a class other than boardsailing, but until Aleh and Powrie's magnificent gold medal in the women's 470 on the waters of Weymouth, no New Zealand female crew had won an Olympic title in a boat.

Aleh and Powrie, both from Auckland, swiped that monkey off the back, and in some style.

They were tied with Brits Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark going into the all-important medal race but the Kiwis made the right move at the start and never looked back.

The Brits went one way, the Kiwis went the other and, after massive separation, the Kiwis were first and the Brits were last at the first cross.

There was no way back for the home crew as Aleh and Powrie claimed New Zealand's second sailing medal of the regatta.

Two days earlier, Peter Burling and Blair Tuke were the recipients of New Zealand's 100th ever Olympic medal when they claimed silver in the men's 49er skiff class, behind their training partners Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen of Australia.

Burling went on to skipper Team Korea in the America's Cup world series while Tuke was to race in the Sydney to Hobart.

But both have committed to campaign again in the 49er for Rio. Aleh and Powrie also re-committed to Rio in the 470.

There were also top-8s at the Olympics for Paul Snow-Hansen and Jason Saunders (fifth in men's 470), Hamish Pepper and Jim Turner (fifth in the Star), Andrew Murdoch, (fifth in the Laser), JP Tobin (seventh in the men's RS:X windsurfer) and Dan Slater (seventh in the Finn).

At world championships level, Burling and Tuke were second, Tobin claimed bronze, as did Andy Maloney in the Laser world championship, despite missing Olympic selection.

In the bigger boats, Team New Zealand continue to lead the way in testing of the AC72s, which will be used for next year's America's Cup, with defenders Oracle currently out of action after a serious mishap in training when they capsized and broke the wingsail in October.

There was better news for the Americans in the smaller AC45 world series, though, as they won the inaugural series from Team New Zealand, who were also bridesmaids with their Volvo Ocean Race entry Camper, which made a late charge but couldn't overhaul race winner Groupama and had to settle for second.

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A good year for: Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie. Olympic gold medal in the women's 470. Doesn't get any better.

A bad year for: Oracle. Yes, they won the AC45 world series, but who really cares? It's all about next year's America's Cup and they're not looking in great nick. Did someone say capsize?

Crystal ball gazing: Olympic class sailing falls completely off the charts, as it does for three in every four years, while Team δΈ€ New Zealand win the America's Cup but without anywhere near the hype of yesteryear.

- Fairfax Media

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