Mark Lloyd / Extreme Sailing Series

Hannah Mills and Lucy Macgregor at the Extreme Sailing Series

470 silver medallist and Women's Match Race helm on their cat experience and Olympic plans

Friday August 31st 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom

Coming from Dinas Powys, on the other side of Cardiff Bay, newly crowned Olympic 470 silver medallist Hannah Mills is very much the local hero at the Extreme Sailing Series inCardiff this week (although GAC Pindar coach Ian Barker heralds from Penarth which is even closer).

This week she has gone two hull as crew on the Team Wales Extreme 40 with Team GBR’s Welsh 49er sailor Dave Evans helming. This year the Extreme 40s have been allowed an extra fifth crew member in the form of a woman, an under 23-year-old or an 'amateur' and this is the slot the Volvo-sponsored Mills has taken up on board. Being 470 helm-sized grinding isn’t her forte, but she has been making wind calls upwind and has otherwise been a floater on board.

Mills admits she hasn’t been much help in providing local knowledge because although she lived nearby in her youth, she never sailed here. In fact the monumental development of the docks on the perimeter of Cardiff Bay, including the Wales Millenium Centre and the National Assembly has only been a product of the last 20 years and Cardiff Bay Sailing Club didn’t exist when she was growing up here.

Nonetheless the eloquent sparky Mills, compete with her new gong, has been the centre of media attention at the Extreme Sailing Series this week.

Extreme 40 sailing is a new experience for her. The Team Wales crew gathered in Cardiff last Sunday and managed to get in three days of training before the regatta. “You don’t see much up the front because you are just running around like a complete idiot,” describes Mills. “With the short course stuff you are always doing something, so it all happens pretty quickly. We are getting the hang of it. It has taken us some time to work out how to race the boat properly – what ropes to pull when and stuff. The boat is really quick obviously but the manoeuvres are really slow. It takes so long to turn, to tack or gybe, so it is quite different. But it is really good fun...”

Team Wales had a slight set-back on the first beat of Thursday’s final race when their mast did a classic tumble to leeward when the lashing at the top of the shroud gave way.

“It was quite funny when the mast fell down, once we realised that no one had got hurt,” says Mills. “We were lucky - the guest was sat to leeward and the boom missed him but the sail got him, so he was alright.” As it was just the lashing that broke the mast remained in one piece and Team Wales is back in action out sailing again today. “There are two more masts – we don’t get any more after that!” quips Mills.

While coming up the slipway in Weymouth having won their silver medal, Mills and her crew Saskia Clark had made a new pact to continue their 470 Olympic campaign through until Rio 2016, at present they haven’t firmed up any plans on how they will undertake this. “Our next regatta? I don’t know. Sas and I need to have a chat and plan. Sas wants to go and do a bit of real work potentially. She has got three days lined up and that will probably be enough for her! So we’ll see how that goes and some time next year we’ll be back in the 470. Hopefully for the Worlds next year.”

So how will she fill her time between now and then? At present Mills says she hasn’t any firm plan. “I might do another one of the Extreme events with Pindar potentially, but that is not 100% confirmed,” she says (and we know that Anna Tunnicliffe is also likely to be sailing with GAC Pindar at future events this year). “I’d like to do some other sailing like this and maybe see if something else comes up – then I’d definitely be keen. It is nice to have a bit of time to go and enjoy sailing again. Not that you don’t enjoy the 470,but it is a job and it is not quite the same as doing something like this.”

Lucy Macgregor

Macgregor sisters Lucy and Kate have also been relishing the opportunity to sail something other than an Elliott 6 or their father’s Elan 410, Premier Flair. This is not Lucy’s first experience racing an Extreme 40 having sailed one previously at Cowes Week.

Looking back at London 2012, the Macgregors and Annie Lush’s Women’s Match Racing campaign had a disappointing conclusion when they were knocked out in the quarter finals.

“I’ve got really mixed emotions after the Games,” admits Lucy. “But generally I'm a lot better than I thought I’d be in this situation. For us it was all about going and trying to win - we were very clear about that and we thought, and still think, that we were capable of that. So we’re really disappointed not to have achieved that, but it has just been such an incredible event, and team, to be a part of and with Kate and Annie and Maurice [their coach], I loved every minute of the campaign. That saved us a bit in terms of how we feel right now.”

Of all the sailing events at London 2012, the Women’s Match Race was the one that bucked the form guide to the greatest degree ending up with Spain’s Tamara Echegoyen unexpectedly taking the gold medal.

“I have thought about it fairly long and hard,” admits Lucy. “I don’t think the Spanish beat us in the last two years in any event so that makes it pretty hard to take, but we were in good company not getting through the quarterfinals with the French and the Americans. We felt we really raised our game when we needed to during the event, whereas maybe some of the other teams didn’t and we are proud of doing that because if we had sailed the quarterfinals as we did in the first round, we would have been very disappointed. So we really struggled to get our heads around the fact that the top three were the ones they were.

“I wonder how much of it was match racing [being new to the Games], so maybe there was less form than some of the fleets. And a couple of teams came into it with the feeling that they had nothing to lose. The Spanish only just qualified as did the Finnish and they are the two teams which came on top out of that regatta. I wonder if the rest of us were trying to protect something a bit too hard. It doesn’t feel like that that was what we were doing wrong while we were racing, but that is the only thing we can really come up with.”

From here Lucy says that she will be getting the band back together with sister Kate and Annie Lush for the Grade 1 women’s match racing event in Korea in October. “It is a good laugh and good racing in 30ft boats and the Worlds are there next year. I would like to do four events next year just to keep it going. I think it is an important part of sailing and increasingly so with the likes of the Extreme 40s, which is so boat-on-boat and with Olympic sailing going even further that way with the likes of the medal race.”

But now with Women’s Match Racing out of the Games, the Macgregors are having to look elsewhere. Lucy says she definitely wants to continue campaigning for the Games, but has not decided upon what form this will take - a skiff, a 470 or even the mixed Nacra 17 catamaran. “Maybe I’ll go kite surfing! I genuinely don’t know what I am going to sail just yet and I am quite enjoying being in that position. It will be at least another month or so before I start thinking about trying to put things in place and looking to the New Year before I get into it properly.

“I think the Women’s skiff is quite an easy and obvious campaign to envisage. Maybe the cat is a bit harder because I personally don’t know who is about nor do I know the boat that well, but at the same time it could be a great opportunity to learn a new kind of sailing.”

Meanwhile sistership Kate is contemplating a Women’s skiff campaign. Sadly it is unlikely the Macgregor sisters will be able to do another Olympic campaign together as their relative physical shapes and sizes don’t work. “Height is not really on our side in terms doing the skiff or a 470 together," admits Lucy. "That is a real shame because we would love to carry on sailing together.”


Latest Comments

Add a comment - Members log in

Latest news!

Back to top
    Back to top