Mills and Clark back on the campaign trail
Olympic silver medallists Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark admit they have ‘a bit on’ when they attempt to defend their World Championship title at next week’s 470 Worlds in La Rochelle.
While Britain’s other 470 Podium squad pairings will be looking to consolidate new partnerships for this season with a strong showing at the six-day World Championship starting on Monday, Mills and Clark have just returned to the Olympic campaign trail following a ten month break since the 2012 Games.
The duo, who won last year’s World Championship title on the way to their Olympic silver, resumed on-water training just a month ago, and 33-year-old Clark is pragmatic about their prospects of claiming a second world crown this summer.
“We’ve only done a few days in the boat, so we’re basically going to have to take it as it is,” said the West Mersea sailor. “We probably feel a bit gutted that we’re going in as defending World Champions and are probably not in any fit state – in terms of hours we’ve done in the boat – to defend our title. But it is what it is. We’ve taken the time off, because we felt it was the best thing long-term so we’ll have to take the short-term hit!”
Hannah Mills agreed with her teammate, but added there was still plenty to gain from their first event back being such a high profile one.
“We have given ourselves a bit of a challenge,” the 25-year-old admitted. “I don’t know about expectations results-wise, but we basically just want to learn as much as we can as to where we’re at, where the fleet’s at, and the gaps between us and them. We’re obviously competitive and would love to defend our World Championship title but we’re also realistic and appreciate that with only a month’s sailing it might be a tall order! But we’ll give it all we can and won’t let ourselves off just because we’ve been sailing for such a short period of time.”
Mills and Clark will be operating under the guidance of new coach, four-time Portuguese Olympian Alvaro Marinho, as their previous coach, double Olympic silver medallist Joe Glanfield, has returned to the campaign trail in pursuit of his own gold medal-winning ambitions in 2016.
Glanfield teamed up with 2012 silver medallist Luke Patience at the beginning of this season, with the duo enjoying a fruitful start to their partnership.
They’ve claimed three podium finishes from the four key events they’ve done, including European Championship silver as well as EUROSAF Champions Cup gold in Kiel and World Cup bronze in Palma.
“It’s been a great season for us,” said Helensburgh helmsman Patience. “I think Joe and I have managed to establish a nice foundation and we’re getting towards that point of learning each other and understanding each other and what makes us tick. We’ve stood on the podium in all bar one of our opportunities this year and that’s a fantastic bit of confidence for us to take into the World Championships.
“I really thrive and enjoy the bigger regattas of our sport, I look forward to them,” Patience added. “I like the expectation and pressure that’s behind these big ones. I wish it was the Worlds or the Olympics every day!”
Fellow British Sailing Team Podium squad pairing Nick Rogers and Elliot Willis will also be competing at their first World Championship together since teaming up this season.
The double Olympic silver medallist Rogers and two-time World Champion Willis finished fifth at the European Championships in June before claiming their first podium finish together at the EUROSAF Champions Cup event in Kiel a week later.
Meanwhile in the women’s fleet, European bronze medallists Sophie Weguelin and Eilidh McIntyre will be hoping to challenge for their fifth podium finish of the season after a successful start to their 2016 campaign, while several of the British Sailing Team’s young Podium Potential crews will be looking to make their mark amongst seasoned senior opposition.
A number of them have been in action this week at the 470 Junior (under 22) World Championships, which concludes tomorrow. In the women’s fleet, Jo Freeman-Katie Tomsett and Amy Seabright-Anna Carpenter were poised to make the eight-boat medal race, in fourth and sixth places after nine races, while Mike Wood and Hugh Brayshaw were pushing to make the cut in the men’s fleet, in tenth after nine races.
Racing at the 470 World Championships kicks off on Monday 5 August with medal races for the top eight crews scheduled for Saturday 10 August.