An Olympic gold medallist, formerly British now firmly American, and a newly minted silver medallist, formerly Welsh now also happily British, were among an ovation of Olympians cascading on to Cardiff Bay on Thursday for the Extreme Sailing grand prix. But the American, Anna Tunnicliffe, was rushed to hospital with a gashed knee at the end of the first day’s racing in Cardiff for the Extreme Sailing Series.
Many of the Olympic sailors, including a posse from Team GBR, were still enjoying the afterglow of Weymout. But at least two, while claiming to be there for the fun of it, could not suppress entirely the competitive instincts that drive top sportsmen and women to beat their rivals.
Tunnicliffe, born in Doncaster but now proud to be an American, was in tears in Weymouth a fortnight ago when her campaign to win a second gold – she did it singlehanded in the China games – came to a juddering halt in the women’s match racing event.
Not quite as choked, but definitely not celebrating, was Hannah Mills as she and crew Saskia Clark had to settle for silver in the women’s 470 dinghy.
Tunnicliffe has joined Team GAC Pindar for the rest of the season and, in addition to throwing her athletic frame across the 40-foot catamaran, is giving voice to a stream of tactical advice. It worked, as skipper Andy Walsh steered them to equal second on the day but she was injured in the final race and team manager Nick Crabtree was doubtful she would be available for the rest of the regatta, which runs until Sunday.
Mills, whose eyes speak almost as eloquently as her voice, is racing with Team Wales, a one-off entry given a wild card ticket to join the eight permanent members of the world tour.
She is also using her 50kg frame to help up on the bow of boats which had to reduce power in the tight confines of a stretch of water formerly, and notoriously, known as Tiger Bay. There was plenty enough breeze on what the authorities prefer to be known as Cardiff Bay bounded by new developments and Waterfront Park.
“This is definitely the type of sailing I want to get into,” said Tunnicliffe, whose match racing event is currently dropped from the race card in 2016. She expects to be fighting for the US place in the new women’s skiff in Rio “so I am tuning into the more high performance type of boat which need fast assessment of the conditions on the race course and quick decision making.”
Mills and Clark have already decided to stick with the 470 dinghy in Rio de Janeiro, though Mills admits she hasn’t been in the gym since the Games. It is also Mills’ first time home – her parents live a quarter of an hour up the road in Dinas Powys – since London 2012 and primarily is hoping to sail safe and stay out of trouble. “We are here to have fun but as soon as we are on the race course we are trying to win,” she says. “”I am helping on the bow, pulling lots of ropes, and running around frantically.”
Steering is Torvar Mirsky with Olympic 49er hopeful Dave Evan and part of the crew with his Olympic squad partner, Ed Powys but Mills insists “there are jobs which girls can do on these boats.” That is, unless the mast falls down and you need a rescue boat to take you home. No-one was injured.
In the meantime, Mills says that they are analysing what went wrong in Weymouth. What went wrong in Weymouth is that she became an Olympic silver medallist.
The other, match racing, arm of Team GAC Pindar was put on hold all day in Switzerland as reigning world champion Ian Williams was kept ashore in St. Moritz due to a lack of wind.
In Kiel, the first regatta on the new European tour for the MOD70 trimarans, it was aday for practice racing ahead of two days of inshore races followed by the passage race to Dun Laoghaire for the second of the five regattas which take in Cascais, Marseille and Genoa.