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Men's 470 head big Kiwi contingent at Palma regatta

Men's 470 head big Kiwi contingent at Palma regatta

Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Willcox are rarities in New Zealand Olympic class sailing.

The pair are by far the best men’s 470 combination in the country and don’t have regular training partners who can push them along. It’s in contrast to most other classes where there’s intense competition among the New Zealand sailors and some difficult decisions will be necessary when it comes to selection for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

While Snow-Hansen and Willcox are likely to compete in Tokyo, their ambitions are much loftier than merely making up the numbers.

It’s why they have entered into an informal arrangement with the Japanese 470 squad. Snow-Hansen and Willcox last year travelled to Japan to train with the country’s best men’s 470 teams and earlier this month hosted two top crews at Gulf Harbour.

“It was great to have training partners who were pushing us along every day,” Snow-Hansen said. “In the last Olympic cycle we had [two-time Olympic medallists] Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie to tune against and that was really good in light winds but even then it was a weakness not having a men’s team who mode the boat in the way the men’s fleet do, which is a lot lower and faster.

“We identified that we needed to get people to train against who were not only fast but also pushed us in different conditions. It’s hard to get people here because it’s a long way to come but the relationship with the Japanese is great because of Tokyo 2020 and because they are chucking resources at their sailors and see New Zealand as a really good place to train in their winter.”

Snow-Hansen and Willcox and the rest of the NZL Sailing Team got a sense of how cold it’s been in Europe this winter when they landed in Palma for this week’s Princess Sofia regatta.

Conditions are expected to warm up for the start of the regatta on Monday night (NZ time) but it was a shock after such a good summer of training in New Zealand.

The Palma event is the first big European multi-class event of the year and has attracted nearly 1200 sailors and 840 boats from more than 60 nations across 13 classes.

There will be some massive fleets, including the Laser which has reached its limit of 180 sailors and the Laser Radial (close to 120) and 49er (95 entries).

Close to 80 boats have so far entered the men’s 470 and Snow-Hansen and Willcox are keen to see how they stack up after a period of intensive training and some racing highlighted by a fifth at January’s Miami World Cup.

“I’m pretty excited to see how we go,” Snow-Hansen said. “I feel like we should be in good shape compared to some of the Europeans who are coming out of their winter.

“We are definitely aiming for the podium because we want to get some good results before this year’s world championships in Aarhus.”

It’s an ambition shared by the rest of the NZL Sailing Team and wider New Zealand squad. There will be 26 Kiwi sailors in Palma, including five in the Laser and four in the Finn, and it represents the start of an important European season.

New Zealand sailors competing at the Princess Sofia regatta in Palma (April 2-7):

Men’s 470: Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Willcox
Women’s 470: Courtney Reynolds-Smith and Brianna Reynolds-Smith
Nacra 17: Gemma Jones and Jason Saunders / Liv Mackay and Micah Wilkinson
49er: Josh Porebski and Trent Rippey / Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn
49erFX: Alex Maloney and Molly Meech
Finn: Josh Junior, Andy Maloney, Brendan McCarty, Raymond Hall
Laser: Sam Meech, Tom Saunders, Andrew McKenzie, George Gautrey, Matthew Kempkers
Laser Radial: Olivia Christie, Susannah Pyatt

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