Sponsorship smooths waters for golden pair

GOLDEN GIRLS: Olympic sailors Jo Aleh, left, and Polly Powrie.
GOLDEN GIRLS: Olympic sailors Jo Aleh, left, and Polly Powrie.

It's amazing what an Olympic gold medal can do for you.

Sailing champions Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie now have a significant financial backer, a boat sponsor, cars and they have even left home to go flatting.

But, best of all, they can plan a campaign for 2013 that doesn't involve cutting costs to the detriment of their long-term goal, another gold medal at Rio 2016.

All of the above is new to them, which in many ways makes their achievements in Weymouth last year, when they sailed to gold in the women's 470 class, even more meritorious.

While our champion rowers were getting presented with new cars on their arrival back home from London, Aleh and Powrie wondered how they were going to afford another Olympic campaign, even with some support from High Performance Sport New Zealand and Yachting New Zealand.

But a chance meeting with the top echelon of Christchurch-based construction company, Apollo Projects, has sparked a significant change in fortunes.

Apollo haven't just sponsored the two Aucklanders; they've taken a leading role in attracting other financial supporters.

Now the golden girls have their own cars, a boat sponsor (which will allow them to have separate boats based in Europe, New Zealand and possibly Brazil), and they can finally afford to leave home to go flatting.

"It was just too expensive to be out of home before. Everything had to go toward the sailing so at least now we've got a bit more flexibility and we can make things easier on ourselves," Aleh said.

"Until a couple of months ago we hadn't really had any sponsors, so the last few months have been pretty amazing. It's nice to have some support now."

Previously they had to plan campaigns based on what they could afford. Now they can plan them based on what they need to do to succeed.

"It just means that we can do things properly. We don't have to worry about things like getting to regattas overseas. We can compete with the rest of the world on more of a level playing field."

Aleh and Powrie get back in a boat together competitively for the first time post-London this weekend at Sail Auckland, something they are looking forward to after months of speaking engagements and public appearances.

"We are trying to keep them a bit less frequent now," Aleh said. "We hit it hard when we got back and we were probably too busy, but it's nice to get back on the water this weekend. That's what we do best."

Aleh joked that although they are rusty they should be able to win Sail Auckland - they are the only women's 470 entry. The aim is to "beat the boys" in the four-day regatta.

Because they are starting the season later than last year, they won't head to Europe until April. The European championships are in Italy in June and the world championships in August in France. Last year they finished outside the medals at the worlds: "We don't really want to get fourth again."

Fairfax Media