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Olympic test event: Medal shot for 6 Kiwis as Gautrey falls just short

George Gautrey is signing off from the Olympic test event without a medal but with plenty of added experience and a sense of pride in his performance in Marseille.

Gautrey missed out on a podium spot in the ILCA 7 (Laser) by the narrowest of margins when he finished fifth in the medal race overnight, to be pipped to bronze by a single point.

Lining up for the double-points decider in third, Gautrey crossed the finish line two places behind Pavlov Kontides – just enough for the Cypriot to overtake him on the leaderboard.

Australian Olympic champion Matt Wearn claimed the gold medal, overhauling a nine-point deficit to relegate overnight leader Michael Beckett of Britain to silver.

Though disappointed not to add to his silver medal from the Princess Sofia Regatta in Spain in April, Gautrey is taking plenty of positives from the week.

“Overall I’m pleased but you’re always a little frustrated in the moment. It was a tough medal race, but you give it your best punt and you take what you can get,” Gautrey said.

“My start to the week [14th overall after day 1] gave me a bit of an uphill [battle], so I’m pretty pleased with how I clawed my way back into it.”

He could be back at the Marseille Marina in just over a year - with sailing at the 2024 Paris Olympics being held at the same venue.

The New Zealand sailing team for the Games is yet to be finalised, however, with the first opportunity to qualify boats for the showpiece coming at the Sailing World Championships in The Hague next month.

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“The last two days of racing with five of the top ILCA sailors in the world was a pretty awesome thing to be a part of. All of us racking up next to each other on the line and just trying to roll each other – it was pretty cool," Gautrey said.

“I’m taking plenty from the week. I’ll go through it with a fine-tooth comb and try to prepare myself as best I can for next year and the upcoming world champs.”

Six other Kiwis will battle it out for silverware in four classes early tomorrow (NZ time).

Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson enter the Nacra 17 medal race in fifth after slipping two places in the standings with a mixed day in the mixed multihull.

The pair managed scores of 6 and 5 on either side of an 11 in stiff and shifty offshore breeze of up to 25 knots.

“It was quite windy and wavy today, which made for some challenging racing. We had two solid races but lost a few points in both of them through [a lack of] boat speed and a few other things, and then we just butchered the second race,” Wilkinson said.

While Finnish fleet leaders Sinem Kurtbay and Akseli Keskinen will be hard to haul in, the Kiwis are within reach of the Italian, German and British crews in front of them.

“We’re still in the hunt and a chance for a medal if we really smash it – which is what we’ll be trying to do,” Wilkinson said.

“The forecast is for a light medal race, so fingers crossed.”

Isaac McHardie and William McKenzie have their work cut out in the 49er finale after carrying a score of 18 to drop to seventh overall on 91 points.

With a 21-point lead atop the standings, Dutch duo Bart Lambriex and Floris Van De Werken have all but secured the gold medal, with McHardie and McKenzie likely in a battle for bronze.

Meanwhile, windfoilers Veerle ten Have and Josh Armit will need to take the long road to the medals following a mammoth day on the water.

Two top-five finishes in six races saw ten Have drop to fourth overall while Armit’s third in the final race qualified him in seventh.

“Josh really pushed that last start and came away with a good one. His speed was pretty good, and he just needed to execute his starting a bit better,” coach Nathan Handley said.

“Veerle had similar speed but had a few wipeouts and couldn’t quite connect things up today but they’re both in the medal race, and both have a chance of going through.”

Ten Have and Armit will slug it out in the elimination series – a quarterfinal and potentially a semifinal – with the top two competitors in each fleet at the end of qualifying automatically advancing to the four-board final.

“With the way our format works, they'll be trying to get top-two in the quarters and then the semis to get to the final,” Handley said.

Jo Aleh and Molly Meech concluded their 49er FX campaign on somewhat of a high - climbing one spot to 16th on the leaderboard.

It wasn’t enough, however, to secure a start in the medal race.

“[It was a] bit of a tough event," Aleh said. "After two months working on our light wind [sailing] we had decent breeze all week and definitely had far too many swims and frustrating mistakes.

“[It’s] all a part of the learning process and every time it gets hard it just shows us exactly what we need to work on.”

© Scoop Media

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