Photography by Yachting New Zealand, Mick Anderson/SailingPix.DK & 49er class
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke have constantly conquered the 49er class. The pair have won four straight world titles and every major regatta following the 2012 London Olympics. Their domination is further cemented with them winning gold by an immense 43 points at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Burling and Tuke have now set their sights on the upcoming Volvo Ocean Race and preparation for it is currently in full swing. However, this means that Burling and Tuke will not be present in Porto for the imminent 49er and 49erFX world championships.
The absence of the Olympic champions will be greatly felt by the 49er racing community, particularly by 49erFX Olympic silver medalists Alex Maloney and Molly Meech, who have been to eight world championships with Burling and Tuke.
“We will miss them,” Maloney said. “They have been really good role models for us and have always been there if ever we have any questions. It will be strange not having them there but they have left us with some good knowledge.”
Maloney and Meech contain solid pedigree of their own. In addition to their Olympic silver medal, the pair won the 2013 world championships and have medaled in multiple World Cups and European championships, however, they acknowledge that they need to achieve more consistency.
This year Maloney and Meech’s performances have been good, with them finishing second at Kiel Week.
“We are feeling good in the boat and know we can perform well at the world championships,” Maloney said. “We’re excited to go over there and lay down a good performance.”
The bulk of that will depend on their starts. After a widespread debrief, following the Rio Olympics campaign, Maloney and Meech recognised their starts as a key area for improvement.
“It’s about being really assertive on the start line and trying to nail that aspect so we’re not playing catch-up through the fleet,” Maloney said.
The pair have spent a significant amount of time working on starts with their new coach Nathan Handley.
Handley previously helped Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie to win gold at the London Olympics and silver last year in Rio. He also worked with Burling and Tuke during the early part of their combination and oversaw Maloney and Meech’s campaign in 2013 during their world title win.
Maloney and Meech, along with the rest of the New Zealand team, have been preparing for the world championships in Porto for almost three weeks now.
They will be joined at the start line in the 49erFX by Erica Dawson and Kate Stewart, a young crew who were 15th at the recent 49er European championships.