The 2020 Tokyo Olympics sailing event drew to a close for the New Zealand team with a "leather medal" for a fourth place finish to Paul Snow-Hansen and Daniel Wilcox.
The men's 470 pair sailed an incredibly consistent regatta through a wide range of tricky conditions. They gave themselves a good chance going into the final double-points medal race but their third place was not quite enough to gain them the six points they needed to lift them above the Spanish team who won the bronze.
It was a similar story for Josh Junior in his medal race in the Finn class where he was close to a bronze but a final mark rounding cluster of boats saw him come off worst and also receive an umpire's penalty for a rules infringement. His fifth place final result matches his fifth from Rio five years ago.
New Zealand's strongest medal prospects, Peter Burling and Blair Tuke in the 49er, were pipped by the narrowest of margins for the gold medal when the Germans were beaten by less than a metre by the British crew on the finish line. The result meant that both the New Zealand and Great Britain teams finished tied on points but the tiebreak was who beat who in the final race and this tipped the gold medal to the Brits.
The silver medal for Burling and Tuke is something they can be very proud of. They have spent the greater part of the past three years focused on the America's Cup defence and only turned their full attention to the Olympic Games in April this year. Their oh-so-close silver means they are the most successful New Zealand Olympic sailors in history with consecutive silver – gold – silver results.
The single silver to Burling and Tuke means that Tokyo 2020 is the worst overall result in terms of medals won for the Kiwi Olympic sailing since the 2004 Athens Games. Much will be made of this but I hope the knives don't come out for this team.
Finishing places of second, fourth, fifth, 10th, 12th and 12th is credible, even if it does not meet the high standards of Rio (four medals) and London (two medals).
It's important to remember that no one will be more disappointed in the medal return than the sailors themselves.
I have seen first-hand the toll a disappointing performance can have on athletes. It is far too easy to see the non-achievement of a clear objective to win a medal as a personal failure. The challenge to a person's mental health is huge. A pile-on of criticism from outside the team is neither respectful nor helpful.
New Zealand is still a force in Olympic sailing and knowing each of the individuals in this team I can state with absolute confidence that each and every one of them are quality individuals who have worked incredibly hard and given their best. We can be very proud of them.
When the time is right, after the emotions have had the chance to settle, a careful, honest review is warranted.
While the New Zealand sailing team underperformed in terms of medals, the other strong nations in the Olympic sailing world did not.
Great Britain were impressive, with a return of three golds, two silvers, a bronze and three fifth place finishes. The Great Britain Olympic sailing programme is the benchmark. The Germans, Danes, Italy and Netherlands also had strong results.
The argument that Covid-19 disproportionately disadvantaged the Kiwis compared with European nations does not hold when we look at the similarly disadvantaged Australian results of two golds, and a fifth.
A careful look at these successful programmes is a good place to start with regard to the review. The Kiwi sailors and their coaches and team managers will also have important insights.
Watching from a distance, it appears to me that a major "work-on" is slow starts to the regatta. With the exception of the 470 crew, all the Kiwi sailors started the regatta poorly. Why this occurred should be a major focus of the review. If the why question can be answered, then a strategy to improve can be developed.
A second major issue to consider is the inability to come back from a poor first few races. Gold medal winners Giles Scott (Great Britain) in the Finn class and Matt Wearn (Australia) in the Laser also had poor first days in this Olympic regatta. However, both turned this around and put in solid consistent performances for the rest of the regatta. The Kiwi sailors could not manage this. We need to understand why and then learn from those who are able to mount a turnaround in terms of performance at this highest level.
Finally, a number of boat handling errors and rules infringements occurred for the Kiwis. It makes it much harder to win medals when capsizes, falling off the boat and penalty turns for rules infringements feature `in your regatta performances.
There are important lessons to be learned and the time left until Paris 2024 is short.