May 22 2013 Latest news:
By Chris Harris and Tom Rae
Saturday, August 11, 2012
PROUD Essex townsfolk were defiant in the face of disappointment after their homegrown sailing star missed out on Olympic Gold.
SASKIA’S Olympic silver will undoubtedly fire her enthusiasm for more medals in the future.
But her drive for the sport hasn’t always been so strong.
Ray Smith, of Dabchicks Sailing Club, who started her off as a youngster, said she was reluctant at first.
He added: “My recollection of her was that she did not like sailing at first and she tried to get out of it. We tried to encourage her, as did her parents. She was so nervous she did not want to go sailing.
“Her older sister was good and she did not want to follow in her footsteps. But eventually she took up sailing quite well and when she was a teenager she used to accompany me to other training sessions at other sailing clubs.”
Saskia Clark, 32, from West Mersea and Hannah Mills scooped a silver in the women’s 470 class behind New Zealand pairing Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie.
But that did not deter the hundreds of islanders who packed the town’s two sailing clubs yesterday to cheer their girl on.
Seconds after the race finale, members of West Mersea Yacht Club (WMYC) spontaneously covered a Coast Road postbox with silver foil.
It was proud and tongue-in-cheek reference to Royal Mail’s commitment to paint one traditional red pillar box in bright gold in the home town of each gold medal winning athlete.
The postbox stunt was symptomatic of the town’s love for Saskia - cardboard cut-outs of the sailing star, patriotic bunting and homemade banners adorned the clubhouses where her supporters watched the action unfold on large television screens. At West Mersea Yacht Club they were even selling a ‘Spirit of Saskia’ cocktail - Prosecco and orange juice.
Although their heroine had missed out on the ultimate prize, it didn’t matter to her ardent fans.
Retired instructor Ray Smith, who started Saskia sailing as an eight-year-old at Dabchicks Sailing Club, said: “There’s disappointment that she has not got a gold but pride that she’s got a silver. In the end it did not work out but that’s sailing at least she was in there for a gold.”
Alan Jones, commodore of WMYC, said: “We’re very, very proud of her. All the clubs have their champions but this is the first time we have had an Olympic champion. She’s brought a lot of pleasure to the sailing and general community of West Mersea.
“She’s a very bubbly personality, an extroverted person, she’s fun-loving. I have danced on the wall of the club with her!”
Angus Milgate, 44, a member of Dabchicks Sailing Club and family friend of Saskia’s, said: “She’s got the gold as far as we’re concerned.
“She’s the most beautiful girl, she really is. She’s got a great smile, a big heart and she’s loads of fun.
“But she’s got a steely determination too - you don’t get to that level without it.”
Councillor John May, mayor of West Mersea, said: “It is a great achievement! A bit disappointed we didn’t get the gold, but still a great achievement! This success will definitely inspire the sailing community.”