30 October 2017
New Zealand sailors walked away from the Enoshima Olympic Week regatta with four medals, including golds to Alex Maloney and Molly Meech in the 49erFX and Tom Saunders in the Laser.
It was a good return for the Kiwi contingent and eight of the 10 boats finished inside the top 10. Erica Dawson and Kate Stewart were third in the 49erFX, as were Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn in the 49er.
A number of countries were using the three-day regatta as a first opportunity to race at the venue for the 2020 Olympics and the Laser fleet in particular was littered with world, Olympic and European champions.
Saunders clinched gold on the back of a second placing in today’s only race, sailed in miserable weather as heavy rain hit Enoshima, finishing 19 points ahead of Australia’s Matthew Wearn. He was the most consistent sailor across the three days, with two race wins and only two placings outside the top 10 across the seven races.
Fellow Kiwi Sam Meech was fifth overall after a 16th placing today.
It was a terrific end to a long season for Saunders that has seen him on the road for nearly four months. He was eighth at the world championships in Croatia and fourth at the world championships test event in Aarhus and his results could be enough to see him elevated to the top-tier NZL Sailing Team.
“This is my first proper win in the Laser fleet so I am really happy,” Saunders said. “It’s been quite a long season, so to finish it off like this means a lot. I will have a nice break when I get home and reset and go from there.
“Today was pretty good. There was obviously a lot of rain and there was poor visibility. It was probably the worst conditions I have sailed in. Going upwind you couldn’t see the top mark and you could barely see the rest of the fleet. It was pretty strange in that sense but you just had to work with what you got.”
Maloney and Meech did that better than anyone in the 49erFX fleet today, easily winning both races to finish nine points ahead of the German pair of Victoria Jurczok and Anika Lorenz who had started the day level on points.
The Olympic silver medallists had a poor start to the regatta, ending the first day in seventh in the small fleet of 12 boats, but roared back with five wins and a second placing in the last six races.
“It’s cool to win the regatta, the first regatta at the Olympic venue,” Meech said. “But it will get more and more competitive over coming years with the fleet growing and I think everyone here was learning about the venue, just figuring things out.”
One thing all of the New Zealand sailors worked out was that it rains a lot in Japan in October, and a second typhoon rolled through today bringing torrential rain and gusts in excess of 20 knots.
“It was lovely,” Maloney said with a wry smile. “We like a good bit of rain coming from New Zealand. Molly almost pulled the pin this morning. She keeps warning me she doesn’t sail in the rain but we survived.”
No racing was possible on the men’s 470 course as the race committee struggled to set a course in the deeper waters offshore. It meant Paul Snow Hansen and Dan Willcox, who had jumped up 11 places to fifth after the second day, were denied the opportunity to push for a podium finish. They were also fourth at last week’s Gamagori World Cup regatta.
Racing was also cancelled on the Laser Radial course after a number of false starts, meaning Susannah Pyatt finished 14th in the 51-boat fleet.