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FEATURED PERSON: PENNY CLARK

  • Penny Clark
    Name:
    Penny Clark
    Role:
    Engineering Officer
    Age:
    32
    Recent achievements:
    • Olympic Selection
    • Selected to represent Great Britain at the Olympics in China 2008
    • Gold Medal
    • Gold at the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta held in Weymouth 19 to 23 Sep 07.
    View Profile
  • Penny Clark (nee Mountford) started sailing aged 4 in an Optimist Dinghy in which she won her first National Title aged 8.  Outgrowing the Optimist, she moved into a Topper and from 1987 through to 1991 she won several lady’s junior and national titles.  Her first major achievement came when she borrowed her father’s Laser dinghy and competed in the 1990 RYA Youth National Championships where she won the Ladies Single Handed title and gained selection as the representative for the Youth World Championships.  This was her first taste of International competition and she achieved an extremely creditable 6th place.  After this she won the National Youth title a further 3 times, representing Great Britain at the Youth Worlds on each occasion culminating in a 4th during her final year in Italy.

    Spurred on by the disappointment of missing out on a medal, Penny progressed into the Europe dinghy, the Women’s single handed Olympic class, and began her quest for Olympic selection.  Despite winning the National title she was beaten to selection by Shirley Robertson, the now double Olympic Gold medallist.  In 1997 Penny decided to cease her Olympic sailing in order to concentrate on her career in the Royal Navy.  Although no-longer competing at Olympic level Penny continued sailing at a high level in several different classes including RS200s, Laser 4000s, Hurricane 5.9s and Hobie Tigers.  In 2003 Penny returned to the Olympic scene, this time in the three person keel boat, the Yngling.  Olympic selection had already been made for the 2004 Athen’s Olympics and Penny had been asked to sail in the second boat and to provide support to the number one boat helmed by Shirley Robertson.  This proved Penny with a fantastic opportunity to sail with one of the best sailors in the world and to get an inside glimpse of a successful Olympic campaign.  Penny spent several weeks training alongside Shirley in Athens in the build up to the games and the prime reward was watching Shirley and her team sail to Gold with a race to spare at the Olympics.

    After the 2004 Olympic Games the classes of boat were changes and the Ladies singlehanded boat was changed to the Laser Radial – the class in which Penny had had so much success as a Youth.  Penny switch to the Laser and won the very first National Ranking event in 2005.  She followed this with a 7th at a major International Olympic Event and began moves to spend more time sailing in order to pursue her Olympic Ambitions.  Fortunately the Royal Naval School of Marine Engineering has been extremely accommodating and her additional time on the water has now really begun to pay off with a Silver at the recent Holland Regatta and a Bronze at the European Championships.

    Penny now intends to sail full time in order to achieve her full potential and to maximise her chance of Olympic Gold in 2008.

    Penny lives with her husband in Lee-on-the-Solent who is a Flight Commander in the Royal Navy.

  • WORLD CHAMPION UPDATE - DAY 3

    Day 3 was a very long day on the water with shifty light breeze in the morning which built in the afternoon to about 12kts before decreasing again.  Once again this made for difficult racing and my fortunes were mixed.  In race one I sailed a conservative beat and rounded the first mark in the top ten however I seriously struggled for downwind speed and had lost several places by the next mark.  Frustrated at once again letting several boats passed I then sailed a less than perfect next leg which rapidly put me down in 20th.  Recomposing myself I fought hard to maintain my position on the down wind leg before then attacking again as the finish loomed.  I managed to pull up to 18th but that felt like little compensation given my initial position.

    After several attempts and one abandoned race, race 2 finally got underway in a much better breeze and I was pleased to find that I had good boat speed in the windier conditions.  I was 5th to the first mark and held on to this downwind, improving on my poor performance in the previous race.  Despite a massive wind shift on the second beat, the lead group managed to stay ahead, me included and despite losing a place on the last lap I was extremely please to finish 6th and finally convert a good start into a good result.

    The main thing is that I have qualified for gold fleet for the final 3 days and in a better position than I had anticipated (16th) given my results.  This is a reflection of how difficult the conditions have been in that the majority of people are struggling to put a consistent series together.  Gold Fleet racing will change everything and anything is possible.  I know hope to eliminate some if the mistakes I have been making and to improve my downwind speed in order that I can put in the performance that I know I am capable of.

    WORLDS UPDATE - DAY 5

    The last two days have been incredibly difficult and with only one day to go I really need to sort things out tomorrow.  Yesterday the breeze was up and although I was not as off the pace as I have been in the wind it was still extremely difficult and two poor starts really didn't help me out.
    With two results in the thirties I was really disappointed and frustrated last night but I was determined to bounce back and put some more respectable scores on the board today.  I managed that with a 20th and a 16th although I am pretty certain I can do better if I can just find the boat speed that was so evident at the euros.  The game plan for tomorrow is to get two good starts and push on for two good results without taking too many risks and losing it all.  Top 20 is not out of reach and if I can achieve that I will be pretty pleased as that was my initial goal.  The back is holding out although with a lot of help from the physio and with only one day left the brufen should keep me going.

    Lets hope for fair winds and a little bit of luck!

    PRE-OLYMPIC TEST EVENT

    After having raced in the World Championships in Las Vegas, I have now been in China for 19 days and the test event will soon be over.
    It has been an extremely long and hard event due to the testing light wind conditions and strong tides.  The original plan had us racing for 5 days with 3 days off at regular intervals and then the final medal race on 30 Aug.  Unfortunately due to the conditions we have sailed every day, generally with over 6 hours on the water in order to try and get all the racing in.

    This has been made even harder to adjust to the high temperatures and humidity levels which have certainly been draining.  Fortunately Skandia Team GBR has an excellent support structure out here and we have been able to ensure our recovery time is maximised and used effectively.

    For those of you who have been able to follow my progress to date you will realise that this has been an excellent event for me and I am now going into the final medal race with a guaranteed bronze medal and a realistic chance of stealing silver.  The importance of this result can not be understated as demonstrating the ability to perform at the actual Olympic venue is highly rated as part of our selection criteria.  It has also been a fabulous experience out here and I have been particularly impressed with the progress made by the Chinese on the Olympic venue and their whole attitude to hosting the Games.  This is further inspiring me in my campaign to return next year and ultimately in 2008 in a bid for Olympic Gold.

    All focus is now concentrated on tomorrow's medal race when I will be hoping for some good wind however we also have a reserve day on 31 Aug should racing not be possible tomorrow.  Fingers crossed and hopefully it will be an exciting and rewarding medal race.

    BRONZE IT IS!

    Well the 2006 Olympic Test Event is finally over and I am thrilled to report that I have won bronze.  The final medal race was really exciting and a lot of fun as I tried to take out 2nd place Jo Aleh in order to secure the right result to gain silver.  All was looking good at the
    half way point however her good speed and cool nerve saw her sail herself back into a winning position and unfortunately even though it was very close I couldn't quite get a boat in between us to secure the silver.  I am however over the moon with bronze so early in my campaign and I am convinced this is a great platform from which to launch my winter training programme.  It also means I am another rung up the selection ladder for the Olympic Games and it qualifies me for the highest level of UK Sport and Lottery support which is fantastic.

    Thank you to everyone who has supported me and made this possible - you can all claim a part of this medal and hopefully there will be more next year!

    Penny Clark