Box tribute shows Olympic sailor Percy is a pillar of the community

Dave and Peter Mahoney who turned the post box in Emsworth silver to mark the silver medal won by Iain Percy Picture by Kate Shemilt C121022-1

Dave and Peter Mahoney who turned the post box in Emsworth silver to mark the silver medal won by Iain Percy Picture by Kate Shemilt C121022-1

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HE missed Olympic gold by the narrowest of margins – but far from moping about it, Iain Percy is already looking forward to his next challenge on the water.

The Emsworth sailor teamed up with Andrew Simpson to win a silver medal in the Star dinghy class at Weymouth as the title they claimed in Beijing four years ago cruelly slipped away.

Carrying a clear lead over closet rivals Brazil after a superb week’s sailing, the British pair needed to finish at fifth or higher in the last double-point medal race. Though conditions were challenging with a light breeze, they were in contention until the final downward leg, which proved decisive.

Despite their best efforts, the defending champions came in eighth, leaving them an agonising two points behind Sweden, the surprise winners.

Percy, already holder of two Olympic golds, admitted he was ‘gutted’ but had been greatly heartened by the support from his thousands of fans and his Emsworth-based family who packed the shoreline at Weymouth.

He was particularly touched by an unofficial tribute in Emsworth, where local fans Peter and Dave Mahoney, from The Lord Raglan pub, have turned a letterbox silver to mark his achievements.

Speaking to the Observer, Percy said: “It was a tough day for us looking back on it but the smiles are slowly starting to come back to our faces.

“We’re proud of the way we sailed. During the week we did really well – the best we ever have. Given all that’s gone into it, we are proud to gain a medal, though at this stage it’s still hurting.”

Percy and Simpson’s final race was followed by Ben Ainslie’s fourth Olympic gold, making him the Games’ most succesful sailor of all-time. This added to a Team GB medal haul which now stands higher than they achieved in Beijing.

Percy explained that while many Olympians would now wind down from the intensity of competition, he was turning his attentions to another globally-recognised sailing event.

“I’m going to be straight off for the Americas Cup now and it’s ironically with a Swedish team. I’d like to have taken a bit more time off now to see friends and family I haven’t been around to see. But life goes on and I’ve got to get back to my professional racing team,” Percy said. 

“My little sister sent me some pictures of the silver postbox in Emsworth, which was great to see.

“The support we had at Weymouth was amazing – so many people were there in the evening and during the day for us, which was great. It made me realise there’s more to life than sailing.”

Many Olympians’ eyes are already on the next Games – in Rio in 2016 – but will Percy join them? “The Star class is not in the Olympics for Rio at the moment, but it might come back. But I’m going to be busy with the Americas Cup, so I’ll make a decision after that.”

NEILL BARSTON