A collaboration with the NZOC: Team Jolly: Strength as a Team.



Olympic gold medallists Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie are a glittering example of the strength in opposites.

Their sailing partnership – known as “Team Jolly” – prospers through their differing sets of strengths and weaknesses.

Their contrasts complement each other; together they cover a wide range of technical skills and abilities. They reckon it means they can cope with anything that’s thrown at them.

With more than seven years together in a 4.7m boat, Aleh and Powrie can truly lay claim to a strong relationship. In many ways, the reigning Olympic 470 champions say, they know each other better than they know themselves.

But even though they clicked almost instantly, they admit they’ve had to work on their connection through the years.

Working with a sports psychologist has strengthened their understanding on and off the water. Because they approach things in different ways, the key is being able to trust each other.  It’s also crucial that they are open and honest with one another.

Having clear set roles is critical to their ongoing success – including a silver medal at this year’s world championships – and both women have distinct jobs to do on and off the boat.

Here’s an example. At sea, one of them is focused on making the boat cut through the water fast as possible, while the other is dedicated to tactics, picking a course through wind, waves and rival boats. Their roles typically change when they switch from upwind to downwind.

Situations can alter in a flash on the water, but Team Jolly can call on the advantage of experience. They’ve been through so many scenarios in their collective sailing histories, they react almost instinctively to a sudden change.

Sailing as a pair means “you always have someone watching your back and supporting you,” Powrie says. In a sailing partnership, the cycle of feedback is so much quicker; they’re constantly bouncing ideas off each other, sharing critiques of their performances.

A decent amount of physical strength is needed in the 470 – a boat not renowned for its speed. Both Powrie and Aleh spend hours in the gym and on the boat building up their full and upper body strength.

They approach racing with a huge amount of physical intensity – making the most of every wind shift and swell to give themselves an edge over their competitors.

Aleh was inspired to sail after watching Sir Peter Blake and Sir Russell Coutts guide Team New Zealand to victory in the 1995 America’s Cup. She had never sailed before, but she was driven to take lessons, join a yacht club, and get a dinghy. She’s never looked back.

“I love sailing because everything’s different. It’s always a new challenge. I love being out on the water – especially in a country as beautiful as New Zealand,” she says.

“Sometimes I forget that I might be inspiring others, but I’m always in awe of the impact our success has on other people. It’s great when you bump into someone on the street and they tell you what effect we’ve had on them.”


Great to be able to share our story and our journey towards Rio in August.. 5 months to go now, all going well, training hard out there on the Hauraki Gulf, three weeks til we leave these shore.. Time to take on the world again!


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Silver at the World Champs: Phew, Quite a Week…

So, if you checked the results after the first day or two, it looked like we were in a little trouble, I think we dropped as low as 13th overall, which was not quite where we wanted to be.. But, as we do like a good challenge, we started a slow but steady crawl up the leaderboard, fighting through every day, with a few great races, and a few less than ideal moments along the way!

12719087_10154013993794301_5774158888048744110_oWe went into the final medal race in 3rd overall, and then finished it off with a 3rd place in the medal race to push us up into 2nd place overall, and take out the silver medal. Which we were rather happy with, seeing as it was the highest we had been placed all event, and in the end we were only three points off the French girls Camille & Helene in first – Who sailed a great event, and it was very cool to see them take out the title!

12029768_10154013994279301_788166863108010843_oIt had been a very long, very trying week, with distractions of all sorts, from truly amazing amounts of debris on the race-course, including water plants called Camalotes which made parts of the race track look like a golf course, to some very long hot days on the water – 8 hours on the water was our best effort. Then came the last few days where Polly got a bit of a bug and slowly deteriorated to the point where it was a huge achievement for her just to have made it down to the yacht club, let alone push hard through a World Champs medal race with a medal on the line!!  Seeing as she could hardly get out of bed, she was a true champion, one tough chick.. So proud of her!

12783549_10154014766534301_8605168428713911668_oA huge shout out to our training partners, and all around awesome guys Paul & Dan, who also secured the silver medal in the men’s 470, their best result to date, after sailing a rather impressive regatta with a truckload of race wins!  Nice one boys!!

A big thank you also to Nathan Handley, our most brilliant coach, who can somehow put up with us trying to break him by sailing like Muppets on occasion, who can keep smiling after some epically long days on the water, and is just always there for us.  We are lucky to have you in our team!

1Now it’s back home to NZ, for a few days off, getting ourselves fresh and healthy again, then back into training mode, putting in the hours on the water while it’s summer at home!

Our next adventure begins in April when we will head to Hyeres, for the French World Cup Regatta, then carry on to Rio for the first of our training camps at the Olympic venue this year.  So for now, it’s relax a little, take it all in, let it all settle, then get straight back into it! Fun times ahead!!


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2016… Back on the Water, Back to Business…

So, yes, it is now 2016, less than seven months until a little regatta in August that we have been looking forward to for the last three years… Time moves rather quickly, and hopefully so do we!

Over Christmas and the New Year it was time for a welcome break, to recover, to start the year fresh, to get back into the right frame of mind to do the work we have to do in this final year… We enjoyed our holidays, enjoyed the time away, and are now back at work, doing everything we can to prepare ourselves for the year ahead.

We have been back on the water for a few weeks, getting our hours in the boat back up, sailing off Bayswater, against the rather beautiful backdrop of Auckland city… With plenty of going on’s off the water as well, not just the gym and the cross training, but also making sure our year is fully planned out, it’s not just all sailing, its making sure all the logistics are sorted, being sure that gear is going where it needs to go and arrives at the right time, flights, accom, transport for us and the boats, it all has to be sorted out.  As well as trying to ensure that come the time to travel, we are rested enough, fit enough, ready enough.. It’s a bit of a balancing game!

Auck Training Pic

Our racing year begins shortly as we leave for Buenos Aires in 2.5 weeks, our 2016 World Championships are to be sailed at Club Nautico San Isidro, the same venue that held the 49er and 49er FX World Champs late last year, so we will be getting whatever info they accumulated about the venue as a bit of a cheat sheet before we go!

Racing starts on the 22nd of February, and then we race hard until the 27th, when it’s time to head back to NZ again for another month and a half of training at home – finally making the most of the kiwi summer!

Cool PicAnyway.. back to what we have been doing, this weekend we just finished competing in the NZ 470 Nationals, where we had a record 12 boats! This may not sound much to all of you, but we can’t remember having that many 470’s on a start line in NZ for quite a few years!  It was great racing, especially awesome having a few youth teams on the start line and even another girls team (yey!!).  Our training partners Paul & Dan, the mighty NZL2, took out the regatta rather convincingly, and we had a few good battles but this time they managed to come out on top more times than we would have liked!  Well sailed boys.  Round two still to come.. 🙂

Special thanks to Nath our most excellent coach, for all his time out on the water with us, and also to our two special guest coaches who came out this weekend!

So that’s about where we are at right now.. It’s all good, we are enjoying the sailing, and looking forward to a great year ahead!

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Season’s End… It’s been a long year… Bring on 2016!!

Sorry for being a little off the radar as of recent time!  It’s been a long year for us, we pretty much started last year heading to Rio in December, and since then we havn’t had more than a few weeks in any one place, it’s been regatta to regatta, country to country, flight after flight… A little bit too much by the time we finally made it to the last regatta of this season for us, the World Champs in Haifa last month.

IMG_8841We arrived in Haifa tired and in Jo’s case, still sick with the same cold she has had since March… But ready to enjoy our sailing, enjoy the amazing weather in Israel, and have some fun again to finish off the season.

The World Champs themselves were a tough regatta, quite light winds overall, with a hard wave state to get through, the sort of conditions that we have struggled with in the past. However we made some great gains in technique and equipment, and were very happy with our build-up and went into the regatta ready to give it heaps.  It was postcard sailing conditions, around thirty degrees every day, sunny, water temperature of 29 degrees… Just beautiful!  So the enjoying it part came very easily!

We struggled to put everything together consistently throughout the event, it just felt like one of those events where occasionally you just want at least something to go your way… But it just never does!  We had some incredible comebacks in a few races, our best being rounding the top mark in 35th and coming back to 4th by the finish!  That one we enjoyed greatly…  But overall we were just rather tired and battling, but happy that we were able to start every day fresh, the old ‘lets just give it another go’ mindset.

IMG_8842After being as deep as 8th or 9th part way through, we climbed up to 4th going into the medal race with very small odds of breaking into the medals, so our plan was just to go all out for that medal race, give it everything we had left!  We were happy to finish off the regatta with a 2nd place in the medal race, which we battled hard for, with Polly pumping us around most of the course… Great fun!!

So not our best World Champs, replicating our 2012 Worlds in Barcelona where we were also 4th.. Quite funny when you have been sailing the boat this long, every time we get a result, it’s ‘oh, yes, we got this back in xxxx’.  But we are very happy with what we got out of the event, some great learnings and realisations, the ones you only get when you have to dig in and fight a little.. Also extremely happy to now get the time off we have been needing so much.  For Jo it was straight back from Israel and into see the surgeon, to try and fix some sinus issues that have plagued her all year.  She can now report that the recovery from sinus surgery is exceptionally horrible, but is hoping that once it is all healed, it will make a big difference and will let her get back into training hard once again!!

But for now we have a little time to gather the learnings from the year, look over the next 9 months, see exactly how we will use our time, to put us in the best place we can be coming into the Olympics in August next year.

IMG_6874For a change, we will now be NZ based for a few months in a row which is quite a novelty! Looking forward to getting back out on the waitemata harbour, back to our old stomping grounds, ready to do some miles… Make the most of the kiwi summer, as it really is the best place to be right now!

Looking forward to what this next year holds.  Can’t wait to get back out there and give it everything we have!!

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