Kiwis win bronze at sailing champs

Alex Maloney and Molly Meech finished third at the 49erFX world championships in Porto. Photo: Sailing Energy / World Sailing.

Alex Maloney and Molly Meech will leave Porto "pretty happy" after claiming bronze at the 49erFX world championships overnight (NZ time).

They already have their sights on climbing a couple more steps of the podium next year.

The Olympic silver medallists started the day in second, five points behind eventual winners Jena Hansen and Katja Iversen, but couldn't keep pace with the Danish pair and made a couple of mistakes which allowed Olympic champions Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze of Brazil to jump ahead of them. 

It was still an excellent result for Maloney and Meech and one that will give them plenty of confidence in the early stages of their 2020 Tokyo Olympics campaign. 

They had a terrific start to the regatta, winning four races in qualifying to take an early lead, but they found the conditions more challenging in the final two days as strong winds and large swells hit the coast off Porto.

"We're pretty happy to come away with a bronze," says Meech. "We came in hoping to be on the top of the podium and sailed really well in qualifying but made a few mistakes in gold fleet. The conditions were pretty tough and we also made too many mistakes but the Danish girls deserved to win.

"We feel like we are tracking really well for Tokyo. We had a pretty good buildup with not too many regattas this year. It's nice to finish it off with a third in Porto. It shows we are still in it and still very competitive. Hopefully next year we will do even better."

It is their first season back under the guidance of Nathan Handley, who coached them to their world title in 2013 and who also mentored Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie to Olympic gold and silver in the women's 470.

Maloney and Meech struggled in the first two races overnight, getting caught out on the wrong side of a big wind shift in the first race they couldn't recover from to finish 12th and followed it up with an eighth.

A 90-minute break onshore seemed to work wonders as they then finished second and first in the opening medal races which left them only six points off silver heading into the final race but they made too many errors again and rounded out their regatta with an eighth.

"It was a tough day for us," says Meech. "But we're pretty happy to come away with a bronze."

It was an excellent regatta for the new combination of Erica Dawson and Kate Stewart, who finished 13th in their first world championships together. They were as high as eighth going into gold fleet and narrowly missed out on the top-10 medal races.

"That was a fantastic effort from a new combination," says Handley. "It was really cool to have two Kiwi crews so high up in the standings."

A Kiwi crew was missing from the top step in the 49er fleet with Peter Burling ad Blair Tuke, who have won the last four world titles, absent from Porto.

British crews finished first and second, with Dylan Fletcher-Scott and Stuart Bithell sailing consistently well to claim gold and James Peters and Fynn Sterritt taking silver. 

New Zealand's Josh Porebski and Trent Rippey struggled on the final day in gold fleet, dropping to 18th overall. Isaac McHardie and William McKenzie finished 28th as they rounded out their regatta in silver fleet.

The 49er fleets suffered more disruptions to the schedule than the women's 49erFX, with three days of racing lost to either fog and light winds or dangerously strong winds and waves.



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