West Mersea: Crowds welcome silver sailing queen

OLYMPIC sailing sensation Saskia Clark was greeted by jubilant crowds in her home town of West Mersea in Essex at the weekend.

Hundreds of people gathered for her homecoming which coincided with the island’s annual carnival parade on Saturday.

The 32-year-old silver medallist took pride of place on a special Jubilee rowing barge among children who represented different sports which have an active youth section on the island.

People lined the streets waving union jacks and applauding their sporting hero as the carnival procession made its way along the seafront and culminated on the school field for the Mersea Island Lions Festival.

Speaking at the carnival, Saskia said she was looking forward to seeing all the islanders who have supported her before and during her Olympic campaign.

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“It’s awesome I can’t wait to catch-up with family and friends,” she said. “There are a lot of people on Mersea that have been on this journey with me for 20 years, not just the last three months so I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.”

She alighted at the British Legion where the winner of a ‘design a medal’ competition, Jack Dawson, presented her with the Mersea Medal 2012, cast from his own design at the islands’s British Legion club.

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She said she would be relaxing at home for the next two weeks and is looking forward to Mersea sailing week which will end with a regatta on Saturday.

Saskia started sailing aged 8 at the island’s Dab chicks Sailing Club and won her silver medal in the 470 Women’s class for Team GB with teammate Hannah Mills in Weymouth at this summer’s Olympic Games. They narrowly missed out on first place to New Zealand.

Islanders have taken huge pride in one of their own scooping a silver medal. On the day of the race, hundreds of fans packed into the town’s two sailing clubs to cheer her on and seconds after the race members of the West Mersea Yacht Club covered a Coast Roase postbox with silver foil.

On Saturday, her coveted silver medal was passed around the youngsters taking part in the carnival, who lined up to have their picture taken.

Hopes of a second sailing medal now rest with another of West Mersea’s sailing elite - paralympian Hannah Stodel who competes on September 1.

Saskia said: ““All the support I’ve had on Mersea the whole way through has been absolutely awesome.

“I love this island and everyone here. A lot of people sent us messages throughout the Olympics and we were trying to stay cool and calm in our bubble but we read them all and I want to really thank them all.

“I think today and actually being here at home, seeing everyone cheer will make it all sink in.”

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