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Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Rio Olympics 2016: Controversial disqualification stands for Kiwi sailors

New Zealand's Polly Powrie, left, and Jo Aleh compete during the 470 women race at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Photo / AP
New Zealand's Polly Powrie, left, and Jo Aleh compete during the 470 women race at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Photo / AP

Kiwi sailors Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie have launched a failed bid to get a disqualification from the opening race of their Olympic regatta overturned.

The international jury today re-opened the hearing into the pair's controversial disqualification in race one of the women's 470 event last Thursday, after new video evidence surfaced. It was not enough to convince the jury to budge from their original decision however, with the five-person panel rejecting the appeal.

The pair, who had a rest day today, will need to quickly regroup from the latest blow, with the competition in the women's 470 fleet delicately poised going into the second half of the regatta.

The disqualification came about after the Austrian crew of Lara Vadlau and Jolanta Ogar lodged a protest against Aleh and Powrie - collectively known as Team Jolly - once they came off the water on day one. The protest centred on a port-starboard incident just 30 seconds into the first race, with the Austrians claiming their Kiwi rivals failed to keep clear of them while on port tack.

Their version of events was supported by a Dutch crew, who served as witnesses at the hearing.

The jury upheld the protest, which saw Team Jolly's sixth place finish in the opening race wiped, and replaced with the maximum 21 points.

Aleh and Powrie were able to get the hearing re-opened today after new video evidence came to light, which suggested a "significant error" may have been made in the original ruling. The footage came from a rival coach's boat.

Team Jolly argued the video showed they had not infringed and there was room to cross the Austrian boat without impeding them.

But the jury ruled Aleh and Powrie were still required to keep clear of the Austrians under the principles of rule 10.

Rule 10 is the most basic rule in sailing, and states the boat on port tack must keep clear of the boat on starboard tack.

The disqualification has proved costly for Aleh and Powrie. While the crews are able to discard their worst result, it put them under huge pressure not to have any further slip-ups.

They bounced back with an impressive showing on day two to take the overall lead, but a 12th place finish in Saturday's only race saw Team Jolly drop back down to sixth overall.

Had their original sixth place finish in race one stood, Aleh and Powrie would be joint leaders with the Great British team and Saskia Clark and Hannah Mills at the half-way point in the regatta.

The Kiwi and British crews have a long rivalry, with Aleh and Powrie pipping the Brits for gold at the London Olympic four years ago.

But with just six points separating the top six crews, Team Jolly are still well in medal contention as they seek to become the first New Zealand sailors to win back-to-back Olympic gold.

- NZ Herald

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