Olivia (known to everyone in the yachting world as Polly) Powrie was born in Auckland in 1987 and attended St Cuthbert’s College. Powrie came from a yachting family, with older siblings Miranda and Thomas also shining as juniors. She sailed for the Kohimarama club and first met her future Olympic champion team-mate Jo Aleh when she was 11 and sailing optimists. The pair raced each other often in P-class events. Aleh, a couple of years older, generally fared better, though Powrie was regarded as a talented young sailor, too. Gradually their horizons expanded. In 2004 Powrie and Sarah Bilkey finished 12th in the girls’ 420 event at the world youth yachting champs, though that performance was overshadowed by Aleh’s second placing that week. By 2007 Powrie had teamed with Melinda Henshaw in the 470 and they proved a formidable team. But that was also about the time Powrie and Aleh team up – with startling results. They had a three-month stint sailing together in the summer of 2006-07 in a 420, and finished off by winning the 420 world championships at Takapuna. The pair joined forces again in late 2008, this time in the 470 and with their eyes on the 2012 London Olympics. Over the next few years, Powrie and Aleh built a strong record. They were second in the 2010 470 world championships in The Hague, Netherlands, third in the event the following year in Perth, Australia, and fourth in 2012, in Barcelona, Spain. The 2012 Olympic sailing events were held at Weymouth, England, and Powrie and Aleh rose to the occasion to win the gold medal. In a field of 20, their placings were 2-6-2-5-10-4-1-1-2-18-2. After their worst performance was discarded, they finished with 35 points, to head off silver medallists Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark of Britain, who had 51 points. The event was closer than it looks on paper and could have gone either way entering the final day. But the New Zealanders sailed superbly in that final race, while their British rivals floundered. So Powrie and Aleh came through to grab gold. They became the first New Zealand women sailors since Barbara Kendall in 1992 to win an Olympic gold medal. In 2013, Powrie and Aleh confirmed their dominance by winning their second world 470 title, in La Rochelle, France. Powrie and Aleh were named the International Sailing Federation’s Sailors of the Year. Powrie was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNOZ) in the 2013 New Year honours list.

News and Blogs

Joseph Romanos writes: Sailing recaptures its glorious past

11 August 2012

One of the really warming aspects of the 2012 Olympics for New Zealand has been the way sailing has reclaimed some of its former glory.