A tornado that ripped through Cadiz last week, destroying a number of cars, boats and buildings, came close to blowing Andy Maloney and Josh Junior’s European Finn campaign off track before it had even started.
The pair’s Finns were untouched but their coach boat was not so lucky, suffering severe damage in the 130kmh twister.
It had otherwise been a favourable return to dinghy sailing for both Maloney and Junior since helping Emirates Team New Zealand win the America’s Cup.
The pair spent the summer in Auckland training together where they were joined by former Laser world champion Nick Heiner from the Netherlands, who switched to the Finn last year and was third at the Finn Gold Cup.
Maloney has also changed to the heavyweight dinghy after previously sailing a Laser and is aiming to earn selection for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The first measure of his progress looms in the shape of this week’s Finn European championships in Cadiz, Spain.
As many as 96 of the world’s best Finn sailors will be lining up for the first race on Tuesday morning (NZ time), including three former world champions and three former European champions, and Maloney is eager to see how he stacks up early in his transition.
“Josh has really helped me get up to speed quickly and Nick has been a good benchmark as a former Laser world champion and someone who did well in the Finn last year,” Maloney said. “I’m competitive against those guys but getting to Europe is a different ball game with about 100 boats.
“But I also have a lot of experience and I’m feeling good about it so we’ll see how it goes. If I can get top 10 in the Europeans I’ll be pretty happy.”
Junior, who finished seventh at the 2016 Rio Olympics, has also set realistic expectations for his first major centreboard regatta for some time. The real aim is to be in good shape for August’s world championships in Denmark, which also doubles as a qualification regatta for the Tokyo Olympics.
“I haven’t sailed the Finn for 18 months and Andy hasn’t raced the Finn yet, so our first trip is going to be about getting back into racing and seeing where we are placed in the fleet,” Junior said.
“We aren’t expecting to set the world on fire straight away but we have a good platform and we are improving so we will be looking to do quite well by the end.”
It hasn’t always been an easy transition for Maloney and Junior to jump back into a dinghy, especially after taking a year out of Olympic sailing with Emirates Team New Zealand and virtually turning into track cyclists – the pair were powerhouses on the America’s Cup boat.
“It has been challenging but I expected that,” Maloney said. “I sailed the Cup boat for a year so I’ve had to relearn how to hike and use different muscle groups again. I’ve definitely been feeling it. But I’m now feeling like I used to at the end of my Laser campaign and don’t get off the water feeling completely broken any more.
“Learning how to sail the boat has been exciting because it’s a lot more technical than a Laser. I was getting a little bit stale by the end of my time in the Laser.”
Maloney and Junior will be joined at the Finn Europeans by fellow Kiwi Brendan McCarty when the six days of racing gets underway. No tornadoes are forecast.