Strong comeback for Mills and Clarke

As Austria's Lara Vadlau and Jolanta Ogar come out on top at the 470 Europeans

Tuesday July 15th 2014, Author: Lindsey Bell, Location: Greece

Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark have bounced back after a three month injury lay-off to claim silver at the 470 European Championships in Athens today.

Their European and overall event silver medals were confirmed in addition to Luke Patience and Elliot Willis’s European Championship gold and event silver to ensure a lucrative outing for the British Sailing Team at the Greek regatta.

Mills and Clark, the 2012 Olympic silver medallists, endured a frustrating start to their 2014 season, with a hernia operation for Clark in April then compounded by a subsequent back injury to Mills, meaning they headed to the Saronic Gulf short on sailing fitness and time in the boat.

“We really didn’t know what to expect coming here, to be honest,” the 26-year-old Mills explained. “We didn’t even know if we’d get through the week. My back’s not been the best in the build-up but actually our physio Wayne has done an amazing job in keeping me on track.

“We’ve had to change a few things with our hoisting technique with the spinnaker, but other than that we can race pretty normally and it’s been great to get through the week.

“To come away with a medal is more than we expected so we’re really happy with how we raced.”

The British duo sailed a consistent series, counting just one result outside of the top six, to assure themselves of European Championship silver ahead of the final day and with a chance of overtaking Austria’s Lara Vadlau and Jolanta Ogar, as well New Zealand’s Olympic and World Champions Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie, in the overall standings on the final day.

With an 11 point deficit to the Austrian pair, and with testing conditions on the medal race track, it was a tall order to wrest gold from them, but Mills and Clark did manage to overtake the New Zealand team to claim silver in the Open event as well as their European Championship silver.

“It was a pretty windy, shifty race, offshore with a lot of big black storm clouds around so it was actually pretty hard to control people in those conditions. But we tried!” Clark explained. “We are obviously really happy with the outcome given that we came here totally as a process regatta. We plugged away all week, trying not to get distracted by the prospect of medals, which we did a pretty good job of, and stuck to building on things that we know we needed to build on for Santander.

“We’re pleased that we came away with something, and that we came away with something from the medal race as well.”

The duo now have ten days before heading off to Rio for the first Olympic Test Event, while the build up to the main season event, the Santander World Championships in September, continues.

“Rio especially will be a very different style of sailing which we need to make sure we’re engaged with and can switch in to. That will be really interesting to see what it’s like,” Mills explained.

“We’ve not raced there yet although we have been there for ten days’ training so it will be really cool to see the venue and at the right time of year and see what it’s like.”

Clark concluded: “We’re all good and in one piece. We’ve worked pretty hard at that this week alongside the sailing with warm-ups and our specific exercises so we’ve got through the week.

“We’re definitely not sailing fit right now – we had a big three-race day earlier in the week which we found hard having been out of the boat for that long, but we got through and now we just need to get the hours in over this next month to six weeks so we can go to Santander feeling stronger and fitter.”

Mills and Clark’s British Sailing teammates Sophie Weguelin and Eilidh McIntyre were also in medal race action in Athens on Tuesday, ending their regatta as the sixth European crew and in ninth place overall.

In the men’s finale, Luke Patience and Elliot Willis were unable to overturn the nine-point deficit to claim overall event honours ahead of the Australian duo Mat Belcher and Will Ryan, finishing ninth in the medal race to the Australian’s sixth. They take home Open event silver in addition to their European Championship gold.


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