Down to the wire

There was no better illustration of the battles they had over three days at the Oceanbridge NZL Sailing Regatta when Tom Saunders and Sam Meech crossed within a couple of metres of each other today.

It proved to be a decisive moment as Saunders beat Meech by one point to win the Laser title at this country’s premier Olympic class regatta.

The NZL Sailing Team members showed their class and consistency across eight races, and their competitiveness is likely to be a feature of the next couple of years as they battle it out for Olympic selection.

“It was a bit of a match race between me and Sam today,” Saunders said. “We have both been really consistent. There wasn’t much in it in terms of the points so you were always looking over your shoulder and wondering, ‘where is he and should I be over there, too?’

“In the second race [of the day] we were really close the whole way around. We got a jump on the fleet so it was a match race, which was pretty cool, but also really intense. Going down the last run we were trying to fight for boy room and we finished right beside each other.”

The racing wasn’t quite as close in the Nacra 17, especially as two boats were missing today. New Zealand’s Liv Mackay and Micah Wilkinson were absent with Wilkinson in a moon boot with a badly sprained ankle and the Danish combination were also missing after an incident yesterday when the crew Christian Stephenson required surgery after his leg was sliced by the rudder.


“It’s awesome to win any regatta,” Saunders said. “We were racing some top-quality opposition. I thought we had a pretty consistent week and got some good races on the board so we are pretty happy to come away with the win but unfortunately not in the circumstances we would have liked.

“Yesterday there was unfortunately an incident with the Danish crew. His trapeze hook broke and he fell in the water and hit the rudder. We wish him a speedy recovery because it’s horrible to see a training partner and friend injured like that.

“It’s a bit of a wakeup call for all of us. I think there are some lessons to be learned from that and hopefully we can limit any potential risk we have now.

These boats do go fast and there can be some potential incidents out on the water. We are all learning that.”

Jones and Saunders intended to talk to Josh Junior and Andy Maloney about the sort of protective clothing they wore on Emirates Team New Zealand’s America’s Cup boat and also look into what motorcyclists wear.

There was little need for those today as the Nacras struggled at times to get up on their foils in the light and shifty winds.

It translated into some dramatic racing on the 49er course and the title came down to the wire with New Zealand’s Josh Porebski and Trent Rippey finishing three points ahead of Australia’s David Gilmour and Joel Turner and William and Sam Phillips. Porebski and Rippey started the day in second but won two of today’s four races, including the final one which secured them the title.

“There are plenty of reasons why we are stoked to win this regatta,” Rippey said. “The Australians beat us in Sydney and to beat them this time is pretty cool. It’s evened it out, you could say. It’s a good event for us to have at home and to win we are pretty stoked.”

Junior claimed the Finn title ahead of Maloney and former Laser world champion Nichols Heiner (Netherlands), Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Willcox easily won the men’s 470, Antonio Cozzolino took out the RS:X and Alex Maloney and Molly Meech finished second behind Norway’s Helene Naess and Marie Ronningen in the 49erFX.