Dramatic finish for local sailor

Tom Saunders goes into tonight's medal race in third at the sailing world championships test event. Photo: Sailing Energy / World Sailing.

New Zealand sailors collected one medal last night and two more have a chance of adding to that tally tonight after a day of high drama at the sailing world championships test event in Aarhus.

Gemma Jones and Tauranga’s Jason Saunders won silver in the Nacra 17 class, but were denied the chance of pushing for gold when the three medal races were cancelled and the new foiling Nacra 17s recalled to replace the bearings on the daggerboards.

A couple of competitors suffered breakages during the regatta and Nacra Sailing "urged all owners not to sail these boats until the replacement bearings are fitted" because "a failure of the daggerboards during operation could potentially cause sailors to lose control and crash".

The world’s top Nacra sailors had recently taken possession of the new foiling Nacra 17s that will be used at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics - the Rio Games were in non-foiling catamarans - and it has now thrown doubt over whether the Nacra world championships, due to be sailed in France in less than a month, will go ahead.

It was an unsatisfactory conclusion to the regatta for Gemma and Jason, who were competing together for the first time since finishing fourth at last year’s Olympics.

"It was a bit of a shock last night to find out all of this and we don’t have a lot of information yet," says Jason. "We hope the world championships will still go ahead. We should find out more information on Monday.

"We were pretty disappointed to miss the medal races but it was an awesome week and hopefully we can get back sailing soon."

Laser Tom Saunders and Sam Meech, also of Tauranga, will be on the water tonight contesting the spoils in the double points medal race.

Tom has been in the top three all week and goes into the medal race in third but Sam propelled himself into contention on the back of two wins and a 16th overnight and is now in fourth.

Sam was 43rd after a disastrous first day that included a black flag disqualification for being over the start line and has steadily worked his way up the fleet. He’s now only six points behind Tom, who was 14th, fifth and 23rd in the three races last night.

"I had a much better day today," says Sam. "I had a great first two races but then lost my run a bit in the last one. It’s really nice to catch up after such a terrible start. I still have a chance at a medal tomorrow so I will try to put some boats between myself and the guys in front. It might be tricky, because the guys in front have been sailing really well all week.

"It’s nice to have been able to chip away but I really don’t want to be in the position of needing to do that again if I can help it." 

Tom has enjoyed a more consistent regatta, collecting six top-10 scores in the nine races including one race win. He still has an outside chance of winning gold but is only three points behind Olympic champion Tom Burton of Australia.

A number of sailors in the Laser fleet struggled in the changeable and wet conditions in Aarhus last night which resulted in significant gains and losses.

"It was a very tricky day with the wind up and down and plenty of rain," says Tom. "It was a frustrating day for me - sometimes it felt like you might as well flip a coin - but I did enough to stay in medal contention so it’s all to play for tomorrow.

"The points are pretty close, and I still have a chance of gold, so I will go out and try to win the race. But I will definitely have to keep an eye on what Tom and Sam are doing. Hopefully we can get two Kiwis on the podium."

Susannah Pyatt continued her run of good results in the Laser radial but narrowly missed out on the top-10 medal race. Susannah was ninth, second and 10th in the three races overnight to finish the regatta in 11th, one point off 10th.

She finished in the top 10 in her final six races but couldn’t quite overcome a slow start to the regatta.


Nacra 17 (14 boats)

1st: Lin Cenholt / Christian Lubeck (DEN) (5) 5 3 2 3 3 4 2 3 - 30 points 2nd: Gemma Jones / Jason Saunders (NZL) 2 1 3 (9) 8 4 7 2 4 2 - 33 pts 3rd: Anette Viborg/ Mathias Borreskov (DEN) 4 4 7 2 6 (15 UFD) 1 9 3 1 - 37 pts

Laser (62 boats)

1st: Matthew Wearn (AUS) 2 3 3 3 (33) 6 7 13 9 - 46 pts 2nd: Tom Burton (AUS) 3 2 8 1 26 4 3 12 (54) - 59 pts 3rd: Tom Saunders (NZL) 6 4 20 2 10 1 14 5 (23) - 62 pts

4th: Sam Meech (NZL) 19 (63 BFD) 14 4 4 9 1 1 16 - 68 pts

Laser Radial (27 boats)

11th: Susannah Pyatt (NZL) 12 18 (19) 7 9 9 9 2 10 - 76 pts

RS:X (46 boards)

34th: Antonio Cozzolino (NZL) 19 34 27 (39) 25 27 22 32 30 - 216 pts

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