New Zealand pair finish day on a high at 470 world champs
Dan Willcox channelled his inner Sean Fitzpatrick when he described his day of racing at the 470 world championships in Japan as a "day of two halves".
Willcox and Snow-Hansen were a disappointing 24th out of 26 boats in their first qualifying race but rebounded superbly to lead from virtually start to finish to win the second race of the day.
It left the New Zealand pair 24th overall in the 52-boat fleet, 20 points adrift of Sweden's Anton Dahlberg and Fredrik Bergstrom in the lead. They will be hoping their opening result will end up being their drop for their worst score of the regatta but they weren't the only crew to record a deep finish on a difficult day at the Olympic venue in Enoshima.
"It was definitely a day of two halves for us," said Willcox, borrowing a phrase almost word-for-word former All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatrick made famous. "It was a light, choppy, Japan sea breeze so it was critical to get off the blocks in a good lane. In the first race we didn't manage to execute our start well and there were no catch-up lanes around the race course, unfortunately.
"As we got through the finish, we regrouped as a team and executed our start how we wanted to in the second race and managed to get a bullet. We kind of finished off our day [like we'd scored] two mid-fleeters, which isn't great and isn't terrible either. We have it all to play for and we're excited for the week ahead."
What will leave them feeling even more optimistic is the fact the breeze is forecast to be steadier for most of the rest of the week. Yesterday's opening day was lost entirely due to a lack of wind and today's two races were staged in conditions that rarely exceeded 7-8 knots.
The 470 world championships are already behind schedule so it's likely race management will attempt to stage three races a day for most of the remaining four days.
"There are some big days ahead," Willcox said. "The forecast looks like we're going to have slightly better breeze as the week goes on, which we're excited for. It was pretty light, pretty tricky today, so bring it on."
As well as a world title, Olympic qualification is at stake for many competitors with as many as four spots for nations not already qualified up for grabs in the men's fleet and six in the women's fleet.
Snow-Hansen and Willcox can sail with the luxury of knowing they've already qualified the boat for New Zealand in the men's 470 but will want to make sure they safely move through to gold-fleet racing at the conclusion of two more qualifying races.
The women's fleet is small enough to race together for the entire week and Susannah Pyatt and Brianna Reynolds-Smith were 36th and 26th in today's two races to leave them in 31st.
Spain's Silcia Mas Depares and Patricia Reina were a model of consistency, posting two third-placed finishes to take a six-point lead over Japan's Ai Kondo Yashida and Miho Yoshioka.
Results and standings after day 2 of the 470 world championships in Enoshima, Japan, today:
Men (52 boats)
Anton Dahlberg / Fredrik Bergstrom (SWE) 3 2 - 5
2nd: Balazs Gyapjas / Zsombor Gyapjas (SVE) 7 1 - 8 pts
3rd: Keiju Okada / Jumpei Hokazono (JPN) 1 7 - 8 pts
24th: Paul Snow-Hansen / Dan Willcox (NZL) 24 1 - 25 pts
Women (39 boats)
1st: Silcia Mas Depares / Patricia Reina
(ESP) 3 3 - 6 pts
2nd: Ai Kondo Yashida / Miho Yoshioka (JPN) 10 2 - 12 pts
3rd: Linda Fahrni / Maja Seigenthaler (SUI) 6 6 - 12 pts
31st: Susannah Pyatt / Brianna Reynolds-Smith (NZL) 36 26 - 62 pts