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Jo Aleh And Molly Meech Lead NZ Charge On First Day Of Sailing World Championships

Jo Aleh and Molly Meech lead the charge after an opening day of mixed fortunes for New Zealand at sailing’s world championships.

The 49erFX pair enjoyed one of their best performances of the season to find themselves near the front of the fleet in The Hague - an important stop on the road to the Paris Olympic Games.

Excellent consistency in their first regatta since the disappointment of last month’s Olympic test event in Marseille, saw them lock in scores of 4, 7 and 3 to be seventh overall – only four points off the leaders after three races in their qualifying group.

But while Aleh and Meech showed promising signs, several other Kiwi crews struggled to come to grips with the unfamiliar conditions, especially the strong current coursing through the North Sea.

Aleh believes hard work on their starts in recent weeks, and a renewed focus on the fundamentals made all the difference.

“It’s just good to get back among the fleet and we’re trying to do the basics well,” she said.

“It's going to be a really long event for us, so every day it’s just about chipping away and trying to get some decent starts, which we've been working on for a while, and get the basics going.”

While the tide is proving to be a challenge, it’s one the double Olympic medallist is relishing.

“I know there's been a lot of chat around the tide, but it's just another aspect that makes it interesting, another variable to keep us thinking. But it also opens up some different tactical opportunities.”

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Isaac McHardie and Will McKenzie had a bit more trouble getting accustomed to their surroundings, finishing the day just outside the top 10 on the 49er leaderboard despite a second place in their first race.

“The conditions here are very different to what we’re used to. We're getting tides that are much stronger and the tactics around the racecourse have to bring that into account,” McKenzie said.

“It’s taking a bit of getting used to, but I think we're adapting well.

“It wasn’t the greatest start for us, but we’re still in the hunt and we’re confident that we can put some better results on the board.”

The duo slipped to 13th overall and are marginally ahead of training partners Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn, who were penalised for a false start in their second race.

Dunning Beck and Gunn, who won gold at the Princess Sofia Regatta in Spain in April, managed an impressive second in their first outing overnight - in a different qualifying group than McHardie and McKenzie.

The world championships is the first opportunity for many of the 10 Olympic classes to qualify a boat for next year's Games.

“It adds a bit more pressure but for us, it’s just about trying to put down the best result that we can and then having the confidence that either one of [the two 49er teams] will qualify the country,” McKenzie said.

Nacra 17 crew Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson also jumped the gun in one of their races, an error that took some of the gloss off an otherwise solid start to their campaign in the mixed multihull.

“We had two okay results, but we were just a little punchy on the start line. It’s very costly but we push the limits and today we just got it slightly wrong,” Wilkinson said.

“It’s frustrating [on the] first day of the regatta but we’ll push on. Our boat speed is good, we’re feeling good, and we’ve got five more days to climb to the top step.”

Other Kiwis in action on the first day included mixed 470 crews Brittany Wornall and Sam Street (57th overall), Derek Scott and Rebecca Hume (60th) and Annabelle Rennie-Younger and Blake McGlashan (62nd).

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