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McConaghy 2022 - MC63p & MC75 LEADERBOARD

Laser sailor Sara Winther the raging radial

by Shauna McGee on 16 May 2011
Sara Winther - Semaine Olympique Française 2011 Guillaume Durand
New Zealand Laser Radial champion, Sara Winther is working her European Campaign with dexterity and solid training. She won the 43rd Sailing World Cup in Hyères – France. She’s in good company and traveling with top, international athletes and fellow New Zealanders - Miranda Powrie, Jo Aleh, Olvia Aleh, Rachel Basevi and 'The Famous Five' (New Zealand’s men’s laser sailors).

Sara started sailing at the age of eight with the Optimist and then the Sabot. Her passion was born out of her love of water sports and swimming. She was the first person in her family to start racing sailboats and at first, just for the love of sports.

Her first coaches, Jan Cameron and Guy Talbot inspired her. She enjoyed the physical and challenging nature of the Starling junior class. And that early experience at Whakatane Sailing Club moved her to move into the Laser Radial class.

In 1999, Sara went to Laser Radial Worlds in Kuopio, Finland. She was very close to a Girls gold finish, but took a close Silver. Spohie de Turckheim (FRA) took gold in 1999 and the two are again in competition together. Sophie and Sara had a close finish in race 3 with a tie for first. And, this go around, Sara is overall at the top.

Sara moved from Youth class to Olympic class and into a new single-handed boat – The Europe Class. She spent three seasons at the back of the fleet learning the new boat and sailing alongside the top Olympic athlete and New Zealand sailor Sarah Mackey.

The Women’s Olympic classes have been a bumpy ride. In 2003, Sara chased the Olympic class change and moved to the Yngling. She teamed up with Sharon Ferris and Joanna White. The team of three took a third at Yngling Open Worlds in Warnemunde - Germany that year.

Sara stopped racing the Yngling when the Olympic Committee again changed the women’s class to the Laser Radial. This meant that Sara gave away her Europe sailboat and bought a Laser Radial. A lot of other female sailors had given up chasing all the class changes, but Sara was determined to follow the opportunities. She noted that it was strange to be sailing among a lot of women who had come up through the youth Laser Radial programs and not sailed as many different classes as she had.

New Zealand selected Jo Aleh for the 2008 Olympics because she was an expert in light winds. Jo took seventh at the Beijing Olympics. Sara and Jo have a long friendship, even to the point that they are rooming together in Europe. The two bounce ideas off each other and Sara acknowledges she learned a lot from Jo. Jo has moved over to the 470, while Sara enjoys her Laser Radial experience 'coming together'.



Sara had outstanding success at the Princess Sofia Trophy competition in Palma – Spain held 2 to 9 April. She finished first overall and didn’t expect to be doing so well so early on in the season. She went into the regatta with some unknowns, including starting work with a new coach – Mark Orams. Despite being a little unsure, the results took care of themselves and she achieved a bit more than the 'solid regatta' she was expecting.

Sara’s new coach, Mark Orams was the 2005 and 2008 Laser Radial World Champion. Prior to that she was working with the New Zealand Radial squad coach – Mark Howard. Having Mark as the new coach has been a good experience. Sara’s and Mark’s training plans and attention to detail are similar. They’ve found an easy friendship and frequently work their successful strategy over a relaxed cup of coffee. Every now and then she gets on the water with the New Zealand men’s sailors coached by Mark Howard to get a challenge.

With two wins out of two regattas, the next goals for Sara are the Skandia Sail for Gold in Weymouth – England for the Yachting New Zealand designated Pre-Olympic qualifier and the 2011 Laser World Championships that are part of the Perth 2011 (3 to 18 December 2011) events.

Regardless of the results from individual events, in broad terms the biggest competition for the top Women’s Laser Radial is between Sara Winther (NZL), the past two-time World Champ - Sari Multala (FIN), Marit Bouwmeester (NED), Paige Railey (USA), Evi van Acker (BEL) and the 2008 Olympic Bronze Medalist - Xu Lijia (CHN).

Keep a watch for Sara across the rest of this season’s events. She’s focused and working the angles and raging on the Radial.


Quotes from Sara:

'I consider myself a real jack of trades!'

'Lately through these two events, I guess I am becoming good at lighter winds - under 12 knots.'

'I also really enjoy the offshore shifty conditions, like we saw at Weymouth last year - this is what we have a lot of at home in Takapune where I do most of my training.'

'I’m just not the biggest person in the fleet so that is always a battle, but I am comfortable in Sara Winther Semaine Olympique Francaise website

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