Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Rio Olympics 2016: Ignorance is bliss for dogged sailing duo

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

Women's 470 sailing pairing Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie didn't want to know how the standings are poised heading into the penultimate day of racing in their Olympic fleet.

Aleh and Powrie's defence of their Olympic title was delivered a major setback yesterday after picking up their second disqualification of the regatta. The result saw them take a slide down the standings to seventh and lose further ground on leaders Saskia Clark and Hannah Mills of Great Britain, all but ending their chance of becoming the first Kiwi sailors to win back-to-back Olympic gold.

With 10 points to make up on the third-placed crew, the Kiwi pair still have a chance to secure a minor medal, but the points spread and possible permutations were of no interest to Aleh and Powrie when they came off the water yesterday.

All they were focused on was putting in three good races today and continuing to push as hard as they could.

"We're not looking [at the standings]," said Aleh. "I guess we take each race as it comes now and see what happens."

Yesterday's disqualification was even tougher to take after Aleh and Powrie crossed the finish line in first. Unaware they had been flagged for being over the startline early, it was up to coach Nathan Handley to break the news.

"We didn't know [we had been disqualified]. So we're thinking it must have been pretty close. The fleet is so tight, in the conditions we had today you wanted to get off the line, so I imagine it would have been pretty marginal either way," said Powrie.

After the disastrous result in the opening race of the day, Aleh and Powrie - also known as Team Jolly - did well to mentally regroup to post a third in the second race to move from ninth to seventh overall.

"We actually sailed well today. We wanted to go out there and sail two good races and were first and third across the line," said Aleh.

"I guess it's always a bit hard when the scoresheet doesn't show how well you think you're going."

Yesterday's result would not have been so costly for Aleh and Powrie had they not already picked up a disqualification on the opening day of the regatta. The pair were pinged by the jury for a port-starboard incident, following a protest by an Austrian crew. They were able to get their case re-opened over the weekend after new video evidence came to light, but the jury would not budge from their original decision.

In other results yesterday, two Kiwi crews confirmed their place in the medal race of their respective classes, but both have a lot of work to do to make the podium.

The Nacra 17 pairing of Gemma Jones and Jason Saunders are ranked fifth heading into tomorrow's medal race, slipping back a spot from the position they held overnight. And, after a poor start to his regatta, Josh Junior has done well to claw his way into the medal race of the Finn class. At the halfway stage of the racing, Junior was ranked back in 14th, but a strong run of results over the last two days saw him leap up to seventh.

The men's 470 crew of Daniel Willcox and Paul Snow-Hansen had a better day yesterday, collecting a fifth and second from their two outings to move from 13th to ninth in the overall standings, with three races to go before the medal race.

Sam Meech has an opportunity to snare New Zealand's first sailing medal of the 2016 Games when he contests the decider in the Laser class today.

Meech, competing at this first Olympics, is ranked third heading into the medal race.

Four-time world champions Peter Burling and Blair Tuke will be back in action today following a rest day yesterday. They lead the 49er fleet at the halfway point of the regatta.

- NZ Herald

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