Tauranga sailor in strong position

Gemma Jones and Jason Saunders are second after the first day of racing. Photo: Sailing Energy / World Sailing.

A lack of time in the boat hasn’t stopped Gemma Jones and Tauranga sailor Jason Saunders putting themselves in a strong position after the first day of the sailing world championships test event in Aarhus overnight.

The pair, who were fourth at last year’s Rio Olympics, won one of the three races in the new foiling Nacra 17 and also collected a second and a third.

It leaves them second overall, one point behind the Italian pair of Ruggero Tita and Caterina Marianna Banti.

Aarhus represents the start of Jones and Saunders’ Tokyo Olympic campaign. They haven’t raced together since Rio, with Gemma sailing the recent European championships with Micah Wilkinson as Jason competed in the Tour de France Voile.

They had two days training together as the Nacra fleet crews try to get to grips with the new foiling catamarans they will use at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The pair weren’t the only Kiwis to shine on day one of the test event - Aarhus will host next year’s combined world championships - with Tom Saunders third in the 62-strong Laser fleet. Tom, who is Jason’s younger brother, was sixth and fourth in the day’s two races to be third behind Australians Tom Burton and Matthew Wearn.

The news wasn’t so good for Rio bronze medallist and Tauranga sailor Sam Meech, who was 19th in the first race before a mistake cost him in the second.

"It was not such a good day for me," says Sam. "I had a pretty average first race. It got really spread out and it was quite tricky to catch up. Then, unfortunately, in the second race I got a black flag for being over the line too early. It was my own fault. I was pretty far over.

"It’s not the best way to start the regatta. From here, I will need to sail pretty consistently and pretty well to catch up. Fingers crossed for some good races tomorrow and a chance to move up the scoreboard a bit."

Sam is 43rd overall and will be able to drop his black flag as a discard for his worst performance but can’t afford any more slip-ups with eight races remaining before Sunday’s top 10 medal race.

Susannah Pyatt is 17th in the Laser Radial fleet after a 12th and an 18th and Antonio Cozzolino is 27th in the men’s RS:X.

More than 370 sailors from 54 nations are competing in Aarhus, which is a good opportunity to acclimatise to the sailing conditions ahead of next year’s combined world championships. New Zealand’s 49er and 49erFX sailors have opted to train in Porto instead with their class world championships later this month and the 470 crew of Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Willcox already had their pinnacle event for 2017 when they finished ninth at the 470 world championships.


Nacra 17 (13 boats)

1st: Ruggero Tita / Caterina Marianna Banti (ITA) 1 (2) 1 - 2 points

2nd: Gemma Jones / Jason Saunders (NZL) 2 1 (3) - 3 pts

3rd: Jason Waterhouse / Lisa Darmanin (AUS) 3 (10) 2 - 5 pts

Laser (62 boats)

1st: Tom Burton (AUS) 3 2 - 5 pts

2nd: Matthew Wearn (AUS) 2 3 - 5pts

3rd: Tom Saunders (NZL) 6 4 - 10 pts

43rd: Sam Meech (NZL) 19 63 (BFD) - 82 pts

Laser Radial (27 boats)

17th: Susannah Pyatt (NZL) 12 18 - 30 pts

RS:X (46 boards)

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