New Zealand crews have performed outstandingly at the Princess Sofia Trophy Regatta in Palma, Spain taking two Gold medals and a Silver.
NZL Sailing Team are New Zealand’s National Sailing team competing in Olympic sailing events - Yachting NZ
The two gold medals and one silver came from the NZL Sailing Team at the first major Olympic class European Regatta of 2011 – the ISAF Sailing World Cup Regatta in Spain.
Two NZL Sailing Team crews held the lead in their respective events going into last night’s medal race. The Women’s 470 pair of Jo Aleh and Bianca Barbarich-Bacher, and Laser Radial campaigner Sara Winther held their leads to win two gold medals for New Zealand. 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist Tom Ashley won a silver medal in the Men’s RS:X event.
With a five point buffer Sara Winther of the Takapuna Boating Club, needed a solid medal race to keep her rivals at bay.
'The medal race started in about seven knots with small pressure shifts. I had a solid start and played the shifts up the middle. I lead at the top mark, and rounded the bottom gate cleanly then fought it out with Gintare Sheidt from LTU,' explains Winther, delighted with this career topping result.
'Evi [Van Acker] fought back hard and was just on my tail at the top mark, and actually crossed the finish line before me, but I knew I had done enough to secure the regatta.'
'It’s now time for few days break in France before I do it all over again.'
Jo Aleh and Bianca Barbarich-Bacher had an even better lead going into the medal race with an eight point margin at the top of the Women’s 470 fleet. The kiwis crossed the line in fourth last night putting gold in the bag with a convincing ten point gap to second place.
Aleh and Barbarich-Bacher paired for this regatta with usual crew Polly Powrie recovering from an injury, and expected back in the boat in a few weeks.
Despite a shocker day one at the regatta for Tom Ashley, he vowed to come back, and was true to his word standing on the podium for the silver medal five days later.
'I finished the medal race third and ended up second in the final standings,' says Ashley. 'My strategy going into the race was to keep a bit of an eye on the guys behind me and to have as good a race as possible. As it happened, the British sailor who was in second going into today had a terrible race, finishing last and gifting me the silver medal.'
'Overall I'm really happy to have come away from this event with such a good result,' says Ashley for whom this event was a return to top level international competition. 'From here our little team travels back to Spain for a week of training and equipment testing in Murcia, then to Hyeres in France for the second World Cup event.'
All New Zealand's medal winners come from the prestigious Takapuna Boating Club on Auckland's North Shore. New Zealand did not compete in two events - the Star keelboat and the 49er, making the top five in five Olympic events even more creditable.
Beyond the medals the NZL Sailing Team comes away from this ISAF Sailing World Cup event with two fourth places as well – for Dan Slater in the Finn, and Sam Meech in the Laser.
Double Olympian and ISAF Youth World champion, Dan Slater has this to report: 'Overall I finished 4th and am happy with the way the regatta went. I still have lots of things to work on that will improve my performance.'
For young Sam Meech, who was a Youth Worlds Gold medallist just two years ago, this result will count as a career highlight to date. This is his first top five at a major European event competing at senior level in the hotly contested Laser event.
There were three more starters in the Laser medal race wearing the fern including Andrew Murdoch, who finished sixth, Andy Maloney just behind in seventh and Mike Bullot wrapping up the regatta in ninth position.
The NZL Sailing Team sailors all gave credit and thanks to their supporting coaches who included Mark Howard, Mark Orams, Nathan Handley, Hamish Wilcox and Dave Robertson who have been in Palma de Mallorca, Spain with the team.
The next major event on the Olympic class calendar is the fourth of seven regattas which make up the ISAF Sailing World Cup series, known as Semaine Olympique Francaise. An even larger contingent of kiwis is expected to be at this next regatta which runs from 21-29 April in Hyeres, France.
Ben Ainslie (GBR) won the Finn class - his third World Cup win for 2011 and was awarded the Princess Sofie Trophy for the outstanding competitor of the regatta