New_Zealand's Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie. Photo by Reuters.
As far as new beginnings go, it wasn't a good start for
Olympic gold medallists Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie.
It wasn't quite as spectacular, and public, as Oracle's
costly capsize on San Francisco Bay, but it was painful
Aleh and Powrie were sailing a 49erFX, the new women's class
being sailed at the Rio Olympics in 2016, when they capsized.
It left Team Jolly - an acronym of Jo and Polly - a little
embarrassed and Aleh in a moonboot.
"We were sailing in the 49er and it was a bit windier than
what we should have been out in because we are still pretty
bad at it and capsized," Aleh says.
"I was in the footstrap at the back and the boat tipped. The
boat went one way and my foot the other. It's fractured with
lots of nervy, ligamenty, strainy stuff. It's a mess. It's my
first major injury in 15 years of sailing."
It hasn't put the pair off getting back in the 49er - "we
will just take it a bit more slowly" Aleh says - and they are
seriously considering switching classes for their next
Aleh and Powrie have only two realistic options in the
sailing world. Unlike Peter Burling, who won Olympic silver
with Blair Tuke in the men's 49er class at Weymouth,
immediately hopped into an AC45 and seems destined for a
future in the America's Cup, opportunities for women sailors
are more limited.
There is talk of an all-women's crew entering the next Volvo
Ocean Race, something that would interest both Aleh and
Powrie, but the Olympics is their main focus and they
recently made a commitment to another campaign.
They could stay in the women's 470 class, in which they won
gold, or opt for the faster and more volatile two-handed
skiffs and will make a decision early next year. They need to
do it that far out from Rio to ensure their next Olympic
campaign is on track.
The last one, of course, went very well and the pair were
last night named Sailor of the Year at Yachting New Zealand's
annual awards dinner. It capped off a highly successful 2012
when their lives changed considerably, even though they won,
as they see it, just another regatta.
"It's been hectic," Aleh says. "A lot busier than we ever
thought it would be. We just went sailing and didn't ever
really think about what would happen afterwards if we did
"You come back [from the Olympics] and it starts with the
welcome at the airport and hasn't really slowed down - the
New Zealand Olympic Committee corporate stuff you do, lots of
school visits, yacht clubs ... "
It's why they've rarely jumped back in the boat since winning
gold in emphatic fashion in Weymouth. They went into the
medal race on equal points with Great Britain but easily won
it to claim New Zealand's first medal in a yacht since 1992
and the first gold in anything other than windsurfing since
"We are looking forward to next year when it will all quieten
down and we can get back to training," Powrie says. "In the
last month or so we have started looking forward again. We
have been talking about the Olympics for the last two to
three months and now we are starting to think about what to
Those plans are on hold for the time being as Aleh mends her
foot and, perhaps, a slightly bruised ego. Unlike Oracle, at
least the damage isn't likely to run into the millions.