25 Nov 2019

Waitemata hosts hundreds of sailors for Olympic lead-up

7:09 am on 25 November 2019

Hundreds of sailors from New Zealand and around the world will compete in the Oceania Championships being sailed off Auckland over the next two days.

49erFX gold medal winners Alexandra Maloney and Molly Meech.

Alex Maloney and Molly Meech will spend a couple of weeks competing on New Zealand waters. Photo: Jesus Renedo/Sailing Energy/World Sailing

The competition is a lead-up event to the World Championships which Auckland also hosts next week.

The Oceania Championships will be contested across the 49er, 49erfx and Nacra classes.

New Zealand 49erfx pair, Alex Maloney and Molly Meech, have a home advantage but they're not relying on that.

Maloney is from Murrays Bay Sailing club, so is familiar with North Shore waters, but the skipper admits the 2016 Olympic silver medallists have not spent as much time on the potential championships courses, which are on the other side of Auckland, as their rivals might assume.

"We've trained all our lives off the bays up north and we haven't actually properly raced in a proper sized Olympic skiff fleet, so it is quite different. You can do all the harbour courses or casual events, but having a proper sized fleet is going to be quite a new experience," Maloney said.

"We've been making the most of the practice racing in the lead-up with all the other teams ... there are 10-race course areas but we haven't actually done that much racing on each one of them.

"It's nice being at home but it is definitely going to be a learning experience too."

Competition in the 49erfx is close.

Maloney and Meech finished 8th at the last world championships , a result which they both said was disappointing.

With most Tokyo Olympics contenders from around the world in Auckland to compete, Meech said victory for New Zealand's top prospects is not guaranteed.

"The fleet itself has got a lot more consistent and the top group has got a lot closer and a lot more challenging, so if you make a mistake you pay for it, so I guess the aim is not to make mistakes and to be the one on top by the end," Meech said.

"People have been up and down, there is obviously still probably five boats that I'd say stand out and the Brazilian and Norwegian training partners are part of that."

More than 200 boats will contest the World Championships next week.

Meech said having that standard of competition for Kiwis to see first-hand is special.

She also hoped the event would leave a lasting impression on a future generation of competitive sailors.

"In New Zealand we've got a whole lot of younger sailors who have jumped into the classes over the last couple of years, so we've actually got a huge amount of New Zealand sailors in this World Championships which is pretty special and hopefully it encourages some of the junior sailors right now in the 29ers and Optimists to be able to see what we do and go 'okay that could be something I could be interested in'."

The Oceania Championships will be hosted at the Royal Akarana Yacht Club and contested over 10 courses in the Waitemata Harbour.