Back in action

Jo Aleh is feeling more confident after taking out 49erFX title with Molly Meech.

Photography by Adam Mustill Photography

22 February 2022


Jo Aleh admits she’s felt a bit rusty getting back into top-level racing but is encouraged by how quickly her new combination with Molly Meech is coming together.

The two-time Olympic medallist recently announced she was returning to Olympic campaigning, this time in a new boat and with a new partner.

Aleh and Meech emerged on top in the 49erFX class after the fourth and final day of racing at the Oceanbridge NZL Sailing Regatta, finishing 13 points ahead of Alex Maloney and Olivia Hobbs. They won four of the 12 races in the nine-boat fleet but, just as importantly, finished outside the top three only once.

“It was good to win some races and get a few things right,” Aleh said. “Every day, we built on the things we needed to work on and accelerate the learning curve. It’s quite hard racing at this stage of our campaign because we’ve only been sailing together for 12 days and aren’t race-ready yet.


“It was such good fun, though. I was a little rusty but got more and more comfortable. I have a lot of in-built habits from the 470 after a lot of years in that boat, so every day is a learning experience.

“I’m so lucky to have Molly at the front of the boat. She knows what she’s doing and knows what it should feel like and where the level is. It just feels like we trust each other, which is a big thing for me, especially as I don’t know if I trust myself in the boat sometimes.”

That will come for someone of Aleh’s quality, and she hopes to be more in tune when she heads to Europe with Meech next month for a series of international regattas.

Several New Zealand sailors are venturing to Europe soon, including world champion Tom Saunders who took out the ILCA 7 class at the Oceanbridge NZL Sailing Regatta and Isaac McHardie and William McKenzie, who finished on top in the 49er.

In recent days, a lot of the most intense racing has been seen in the youth classes, with the event also the selection regatta for the NZL Sailing Foundation Youth Team to compete at this year’s youth sailing world championships.

Yachting New Zealand hopes to send a team to the Netherlands in July, especially as a New Zealand team has been absent from youth sailing’s pinnacle event for two years because of Covid-19.

Lucy Leith and Lizzie Shapland won selection to compete in Brazil in 2020 before the event was cancelled and look set to earn selection this time around after comfortably taking out the girl’s 29er.

“Honestly, we are so happy,” Leith said. “We are just so excited we might get a chance to go and compete at the youth worlds after missing out last time.”

It’s likely to be a third trip to the youth worlds for former 420 world champion Seb Menzies, who took out the boy’s 29er with George Lee Rush. The pair are a relatively new combination, with their previous partners having moved to the senior ranks. Still, they scored nine wins in the 12 races to finish 19 points ahead of Kosta Gladiadis and Mattias Coutts in second.

“It’s awesome,” Menzies said. “Winning the youth trials was our goal, so the regatta went well. We kept cool heads despite the heat.”

The final day was raced in a light sea breeze across two of the three racecourses on Auckland’s North Shore, but enough puff didn’t quite make its way down the coast for the windfoilers and kite foilers to hit the water.

The regatta also incorporated the windfoiling national championships, with Josh Armit and Veerle ten Have taken out the titles.

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