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Focus on Olympics to ramp up after six classes qualified

New Zealand might not have won a medal at the sailing world championships in Aarhus but the bigger picture is at play and, importantly, six classes were qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Qualifying six out of the 10 Olympic classes had been the target beforehand and it was never assumed this would be achieved in Aarhus, particularly at a venue that threw up everything from light winds through to powerful squalls.

A number of countries have fallen short of their own targets and will need to qualify boats at subsequent regattas, and it is at these events New Zealand sailors will have opportunities to qualify in the remaining four classes – men’s and women’s RS:X, women’s 470 and Laser Radial.

“It was disappointing not to get any medals but our main objective this week was to qualify the classes for the Olympics and we have done that in all six classes, which is a success,” Yachting New Zealand high performance director Ian Stewart said.

“It has been very tricky [sailing in Aarhus], tricky for forecasters and tricky for competitors. In saying that, the good guys still floated to the top. Our guys sailed really well but it has been tough.”

Sam Meech (Laser) and Josh Junior (Finn) both flirted with the gold medal in their classes before finishing fourth overall and Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn (seventh 49er), Alex Maloney and Molly Meech (eighth 49erFX) and Andy Maloney (10th Finn) also achieved top-10 results.

Liv Mackay and Micah Wilkinson (11th Nacra 17) and Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Willcox (12th men’s 470) both narrowly missed out on their top 10 medal races but qualified the boat for Tokyo.

The Olympic venue will now come into sharp focus with the majority of New Zealand sailors who competed in Aarhus heading to Enoshima next month for a World Cup regatta.

“It’s less than 24 months to the Olympics and all the attention goes to Enoshima now for us,” Stewart said. “We have a World Cup there in September and we really focus on our venue development and becoming familiar with Enoshima from a shore operations and weather point of view. It’s the start of our intense focus on the Olympic venue.”

The selection of New Zealand’s team for the Olympics is still some way off, and there will be some intense competition in some classes like the Nacra 17, 49er and Laser, but there will be some additions to the 2019 NZL Sailing Team, this country’s top tier sailing squad, following these world championships.

“Although we didn’t get any medals, there were some real positives to come out of the week,” Stewart said. “We have some new members of to the NZL Sailing Team.

“In the 49er, Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn were in the top 10 and leading during the regatta. Outstanding result. And we welcome Andy Maloney back into the NZL Sailing Team and what he and Josh Junior are doing together in the Finn, they are right on track and going well.

“Our usual top performers were there or thereabouts. Although it was a brutal week, the big picture is not grim. It’s actually looking quite solid.”

Classes qualified by New Zealand for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics:

Nacra 17
Men’s 470

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