Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie - from P-Class to Olympic Gold Medal
by Jodie Bakewell-White on 18 Sep 2012
The ‘Mighty P-Class’ – the little kiwi boat nearly all of New Zealand’s best sailors ‘did time’ in as a junior sailor is arguably this nation’s secret to continually producing world beating sailors’ in all disciplines of the sport.
Selling the Dream - P-class gathered around Team NZ’s America’s Cup boats in 2000 Powrie Images
New Zealand's latest Olympic champions, Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie, secured their place in New Zealand sailing history collecting the Women’s 470 Gold Medal last month in Weymouth, England. Both sailed the P-Class in their formative years.
This Sunday, when Jo and Olivia re-visit their junior Yacht Club they will be re-united with the actual P-Class yachts they each sailed. It’s the annual Kohimarama Yacht Club opening day heralding the start of the summer sailing season and this year will be extra special for yacht club members with the gold medal sailors along as special guests.
Thanks to some quick work from long-time club member Peter Wilkinson, Olivia’s original P-Class is being purchased for the Yacht Club returning from its recent home in Wellington in time for Sunday’s opening day.
'Polly’s [Olivia] P class was built by Russ Trainor of Torbay and then I painted it and rigged it,' tells Sefton Powrie, Olivia’s Dad. 'Miranda and Tom [Olivia’s siblings] sailed it before Polly. We lent it to James Williamson and he won the Tanner Cup in it.'
'Russ also built Mark Kennedy’s P class another Tanner cup winner. They were fast,' he continues. 'I think these were about the last of Russ’s, he was probably about 80 then!'
Jo’s P-Class, safely gathering dust under a house in recent years, will also be at the Kohimarama Yacht Club on Sunday. Speaking to Gun Caundle of the P-Class Association in January this year, Jo recalls her boat well:
'The last year I sailed in a P Class I finally got my own good boat. We found it in Christchurch. Just a hull. We got it shipped up, the only one we could find. I remember it arrived all wrapped up in carpet. Within about half an hour I put it downstairs in the living room and stripped all the fittings off,' she explained.
'My mum and I redid the whole boat. We had a deck, so she built a sort of room on the deck so the P class could fit in it. We painted and varnished it. Mum is the handy one, very practical. We got lots of advice. Boat builders lent us stuff, which was all very helpful.'
'This good boat was P345 Impulse. A Griffin. They are pretty quick P Classes. Difference between other P’s, they had (more of) a bow. There was no flat under the front triangle. We had great fun at the Nationals. We turned up for measuring, and they (the measurers) put the jig on and (said), 'It’s in the way.'
'They couldn’t measure it properly (with the jig). There was a loophole in the rules and they couldn’t get the jig to fit properly, so they had to do all these other measurements. About five measurers, umming and arring with tape measures out. But it was legal. It passed.'
Jo and Olivia are excited at the prospect of being re-united with their old boats, and all going well they may even get the chance to hit the water in them one more time this weekend.