The final day was all about the medal races in Kiel, with light winds delaying the starts until late morning when both the temperature and the pressure ramped up.
Queenslander Mara Stransky wore the leader’s yellow bib into the medal race, and she put the finishing touches on a breakthrough regatta winning both the race and the gold medal.
For assistant National ILCA 6 Coach Ben Walkemeyer it was a fantastic result for the squad.
“Mara sailed a pretty perfect race, she didn’t put any unnecessary risk out there and led from the first top mark to the finish,” said Walkemeyer. “She essentially had a fleet of four boats she had to look for and so started safely, got the first shift and it was all about protecting that reasonable position, and so that meant the race win right there.”
Mara was delighted with today’s performance.
“This is my first proper win, so it hasn’t sunk in yet. My aim coming here was to work on consistency as that has let me down in the past, and so most of this win came from my starts. It was so hard to work out these conditions and so I just wanted to start clean and keep it simple.”
Speaking about the race delay, Stransky was comfortable with the extra time.
“It was good to have some extra time to settle before the medal race here, as once you are on the water, we are generally straight into a start sequence. If I finished in the top seven it would be hard to lose this, so my aim was to stay safe and sail conservatively. Initially, it was about not coming last, then halfway up the beat I moved into a really good position. “
The entire Australian Sailing ILCA 6 squad made the medal race at Kiel, Stransky was effusive in her praise of the entire team.
“It is so phenomenal to have all of us in the medal race and I credit most of my ability to get around this racecourse from working with the other girls. Everyone in the squad has the ability to win, and that is super exciting. I particularly want to thank my family and my home club the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron plus the Queensland Academy of Sport sailing program, they have been really influential.”
The squad’s achievement has brought excitement and energy to the young group, including Zoe Thomson who finished in sixth.
“All of us in this squad believe we can achieve something pretty extraordinary,” said Thomson. “We are all working hard towards that, we are pretty good friends, plus we are relatively young and so this experience is all adding up.”
Western Australian Elyse Ainsworth shared that sentiment.
“I think what we have going is unique and very special. We have all worked incredibly hard to make this happen and I am stoked that we can be doing this together. I think this is only the beginning for us and I really believe we can take it all the way, to be a very dominant squad within the ILCA 6 class. This is really exciting for women’s sailing in Australia, as it feels like we are leading a very powerful pathway here.”
The other Aussies in a medal race today were Queenslanders Tom Needham and Joel Turner in the 49er class, and they finished an agonising one point off a podium finish.
National 49er Coach Euan McNicol described the 49er medal race in very difficult conditions.
“Today was light and patchy and pretty streaky, but I think Tom and Joel did a good job of balancing out the shifts and the pressure. They managed to stay in the front part of the fleet for all the race which certainly wasn’t easy, as it developed into quite gusty and shifty conditions.”
The 49er fleet in Kiel had one of the closest finished of the event, as Needham explained.
“It was a photo finish for third, fourth and fifth, so we didn’t know our result when we finished it was that close. There was a big gust down the middle of the course and obviously the boats behind get that first, so everyone caught up and it was super tight. Luckily, we managed to shoot through and get a third in the medal race, just one point off third overall.”
Reflecting on an impressive week, Thomas and Joel were clear on the pride and passion in the Australian 49er squad.
“It was so good to go out there and represent our country and our squad. We are a very close-knit 49er squad, and we work hard together and so very proud to represent the guys and everyone back at home. All this means that a huge credit must go to the rest of the 49er squad and to our support staff, our coach Euan McNicol, Michael Blackburn, and the physios and psychologists here who make it all work. We are from Brisbane and so the Queensland Academy of Sport helps us day to day, and of course the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron is really important to us. We know that none of this happens without each and every one of our supporters, and so as always, a massive thanks goes out to them.”