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Sailing World Champs: First Race Win For NZ As Gold Fleet Beckons

Four Kiwi crews have all but secured their spots in the gold fleet at the 2023 Sailing World Championships after pushing up the leaderboard on day two in The Hague.

Three teams are now inside the top 10 of their competitions, and a fourth sits just outside, following a string of top-five results – including New Zealand’s first race win of the event.

49erFX duo Jo Aleh and Molly Meech were quick to adjust to the North Sea’s tricky tide on day one and overcame choppy conditions overnight to move from seventh overall to fourth, with the finals series fast approaching.

They are 15 points behind leaders Vilma Bobeck and Rebecca Netzler of Sweden, and only nine points adrift of the red bibs, currently in possession of Aussies Olivia Price and Evie Haseldine.

“We had three solid races and our plan of getting off the start line well, and then keeping things simple around the racetrack, is working well,” Meech said.

“We also have a pretty good idea on how the current's going and that’s working in our favour.”

Meech and Aleh have three more qualifying races before the top 25 competitors will battle it out in gold-fleet racing to determine the top 10 positions for the all-important medal race.

“We're looking forward to one more day of qualifying tomorrow and then the regatta restarts, going into gold fleet. Fingers crossed for three more good races, and then we'll see how it goes day by day.”

Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn claimed New Zealand’s first race win of the world champs in their final qualifying race of the day to climb 10 places to 11th on the 49er table.

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The pair are back in top-level action for the first time in three months and saw a promising first day of competition undone by a penalty for a premature start in their second race.

They had no such problems on day two, despite a late change of racecourse and an exacting sea state.

“We were a little rough on the first race but managed to get back for a 10th and then finished up with a 2 and a 1 – so a good end to the day,” Gunn said.

“We got into the lead in the last race, and it was just about keeping it all together and getting to the finish line while there were a lot of people capsizing.”

Isaac McHardie and Will McKenzie also showed improved consistency to break into the top 10 in the same class. They sit eighth overall, two points ahead of Dunning Beck and Gunn.

“We’re expecting some more breeze tomorrow, so it'll be good to push the boat again and then just let the rest of the fleet make the mistakes. Hopefully, we can get three more good races to wrap up qualifying,” Gunn said.

Avoiding costly errors was also a big focus for Erica Dawson and Micah Wilkinson in the Nacra 17.

Scores of 3, 2 and 5 saw them move into eighth to close the gap on the leaders after a mixed first day that included picking up the dreaded U-flag for a false start.

“It was definitely a better day for us than yesterday. We felt like our boat speed improved after we went through some thorough debriefing,” Dawson said.

“We just made a few less errors on the course and kept it pretty clean. We're stoked to get a couple of top-threes, and hopefully there's more of that to come.”

George Gautrey, Tom Saunders, Luke Deegan, Caleb Armit, Olivia Christie and Greta Pilkington all get their campaigns under way tomorrow when the ILCA 7 and ILCA 6 competitions start.

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