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07 Jan 2017

Polly Powrie, half of one of the most successful teams in New Zealand sailing history, has retired from Olympic yachting.

Powrie and Jo Aleh, colloquially known as Team Jolly, first teamed up in the women’s 470 in 2009 and established an impressive record in their time together, winning gold at the 2012 London Olympics and backing that up with silver at last year's Rio Games. They are also former 470 world champions and in 2013 were named ISAF Female World Sailors of the Year

The 29-year-old Powrie recently decided she didn’t want to commit to another Olympic campaign.

“I have been mulling it over for the last few months,” she said. “Jo and I have been sailing together for eight years and achieved possibly everything we could have. I had to ask the question, `was I excited about going again and did I still feel like there was a challenge to achieve?’ I also had to take family into consideration and decided it was time to move on and experience different things and challenge myself in different ways.”

That has included picking up a job in the property industry and utilising the business degree she had been working towards over the past decade. One of the hardest things recently was breaking the news to Aleh.

“I was definitely a bit nervous telling Jo as we’ve had such a tight partnership but she understands the demands of what it takes to achieve at that level and the impact it has on you mentally and physically.”

Aleh is taking a year out from the 470 boat and is looking to compete in the next Volvo Ocean Race, which starts in September 2017. Last month she was on board new supermaxi CQS for the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

“I had a great eight years with Polly,” Aleh said. “I know her so well, so it’s a bit sad it’s over but I support whatever she wants to do.

“We spoke about it after the Games. She wasn’t sure if she was going to continue and I wasn’t sure either.

“I’m hoping to get into the Volvo and see if I can make that step into a different part of sailing. I’m fully open to the idea of putting another campaign together for the Tokyo Olympics and I had planned to do it with Polly but I want to do some other things in the meantime to keep me interested.”

Powrie says she will continue to be involved in sailing in some way, whether it’s helping up-and-coming sailors, coaching or being a weekend racer, and will look back fondly on her time on the circuit.

“We had something really special there and I will always cherish those memories. It was extremely difficult at times with some real challenges but, for the most part, it was really enjoyable.

“Jo and I worked in four-year cycles with the Olympics being the major goal, so to win gold and silver was a real highlight, but it was often the things we achieved which weren’t always publicly visible which brought a lot of satisfaction. We have been so reliant on each other it will be strange having some distance but we will always be a part of each other’s lives.

“Our coach Nathan Handley was with us for the whole time and was an integral part of our success. He was so loyal and provided a huge amount of support. We’ve also appreciated the support from Yachting New Zealand, High Performance Sport New Zealand and our personal sponsors, specifically Dave Slyfield, Jane Magnusson and Paul Lloyd who helped Jo and I shape our campaigns into a winning formula.”

Yachting New Zealand chief executive David Abercrombie paid tribute to Powrie’s contribution to the sailing landscape.

“Polly and Jo produced some terrific results together and have been an inspiration to young sailors not only in New Zealand but also around the world by putting sailing, and in particular women’s sailing, on the map. They demonstrated on multiple occasions just what talent and, above all, dedication and hard work can achieve. I look forward to having Polly involved in a number of areas with our young and not so young sailors over the coming years.

“It’s great Jo is looking to put a campaign together for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and it would be wonderful if she could claim a third Olympic medal.”

Team Jolly

Life member of Yachting New Zealand
2012 Yachting New Zealand Excellence Awards – Sailors of the Year.
2012 Sport Auckland Excellence Awards – Team of the Year and Overall Supreme Award
Jo Aleh: Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (New Year’s Honours list 2013)
Polly Powrie: Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (New Year’s Honours list 2013)
2013 ISAF Female World Sailor of the Year 

ISAF world ranking: 1
Rio Olympics: Silver
470 world championships: 2nd

ISAF world ranking: 1
Princess Sofia Regatta, Palma: 1st and overall regatta trophy winners
USA, Miami World Cup: 1st
France, Hyeres World Cup: 2nd
UK, Weymouth World Cup: 2nd
European championships: 1st

470 world championships: 2nd
470 European championships: 3rd
Rio Olympic test event: 1st
Spain World Cup: 1st
France World Cup: 1st

470 world championships: 1st
470 European championships: 2nd
Eurosaf Champions Sailing Cup (Garda): 1st
Eurosaf Champions Sailing Cup (Delta Lloyd Regatta): 1st
China World Cup: 1st

London Olympics: Gold
470 world championships: 4th
GBR World Cup: 1st
NZ 470 nationals: 1st overall, and 1st women

ISAF world championships: 3rd
GBR World Cup: 1st
Spain World Cup: 1st

470 world championships: 2nd
Sail Melbourne World Cup: 1st

470 world championships: 6th
470 European championships: 3rd

Jo Aleh in hunt for new crew