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Meech claims silver at European champs

Sam Meech climbed one place to second on the final day. Photo: Thom Touw Photography.

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Sam Meech has collected silver at the Laser European championships in La Rochelle overnight to continue what has been an outstanding season.

The 27-year-old is in a rich vein of form in one of the most competitive of the Olympic classes, having picked up bronze at the Princess Sofia Regatta in Palma and then silver at both the World Cup in Hyeres and this week at the Laser Europeans.

Those results come on top of his first World Cup title he won in Gamagori late last year.

Meech went into the final day in La Rochelle in third but jumped up a place on the back of a fifth in the first race of the day. His chances of claiming gold were scuppered when the 12th and final race of the regatta was cancelled due to time constraints, although Meech still had some ground to make up on Matt Wearn.

The Australian sailed consistently well all week, finishing out of the top 10 only once in 11 races, and rounded things off by winning the final race. Wearn finished 11 points ahead of Meech, who was another 11 points ahead of world champion Pavlos Kontides of Cyprus in third. 

New Zealand’s Andrew McKenzie was 10th overall after a strong start to the regatta and George Gautrey was 41st. Susannah Pyatt was the best of the Kiwis in the Laser Radial, finishing 38th, and Olivia Christie was 46th.

"I’m really happy with how the season is going so far and there’s still a lot to go," says Meech. "I feel like I’m sailing well. I’m just making a few mistakes in each regatta that the person in front of me each time didn’t.

"I just want to be in with a chance [of winning] going into the last race, so I’m confident with my speed and tactics. It’s just performing consistently that’s tricky."

Meech started the week brilliantly, winning four of his six qualifying races and added another race win on the first day of gold fleet. He hit a little speed bump with a 15th and a 17th as Wearn continued to bank low scores and went into the final day needing to make up seven points on the Australian.

"We had a reasonable breeze by the time we got started and I managed to get a good start and be up there all the way around which was nice," says Meech. "Unfortunately Matt Wearn won the race which put him a few more points in front so it was going to make it tricky [to catch him].

"Then we had a few general recalls [as we tried to start the final race] and just ran out of time with the 5pm cutoff, which was a shame because it would have been nice to finish the series."

McKenzie was 15th in the final race to hold onto 10th overall but had visions of at least replicating his third place at last year’s European championships after such a good start to the regatta. 

"I didn’t have too bad of a race today but again let a few places slip," he says. "It sort of sums up my gold fleet series, always being there in the mix but not quite being able to convert. I would’ve liked to finish further up the leaderboard as I felt I had some really good form but, overall, I’m happy with how I sailed."

The pair will now return to New Zealand to prepare for August’s sailing world championships in Denmark, which is the pinnacle event of the year and the first chance to qualify the boat for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Marit Bouwmeester (Netherlands) comfortably won the Laser Radial competition ahead of American Paige Railey and Maxime Jonker (Netherlands).

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