21 Aug 2023

Gautrey bags bronze for NZ on last day of Sailing World Championships

9:23 am on 21 August 2023
George Gautrey of New Zealand.


George Gautrey secured a brilliant bronze medal at the Sailing World Championships overnight - New Zealand's first podium spot on the final day of competition in The Hague.

Having already been guaranteed silverware after a dramatic last day of qualifying 24 hours earlier, and with Australia's Matt Wearn enjoying an unassailable lead, the race was effectively a shootout for second place between Britain's Michael Beckett and Gautrey.

In the end Gautrey finished with a fifth place in the ILCA 7 (Laser) medal race following a tight tussle with Beckett.

A wicked wind shift saw Gautrey take an early lead in the finale before an error at the top mark proved costly.

"I led around the top and then made a meal of it on the first run, but that's yachting. That's something to look back on but I can walk away with my head held high," Gautrey said after the race, which saw Beckett finish second to Frenchman Jean Baptiste Bernaz - and five points ahead of Gautrey overall.

"I think I got what I deserved this week. I was clearly behind these guys [Wearn and Beckett] in the racing, but clearly in front of the guys behind me - so I'm quite happy with my week."

Gautrey had a slow start to the competition but managed to work his way back up the leaderboard with five top-ten results in the final seven qualifying races - picking up two race wins along the way.

"Eight days of sailing on the trot is a big regatta and doing it in the Laser makes it even harder.

"I started off the week pretty slow in qualifying and just made a habit of chipping away each day, trying to move up a few spots here and there and I found myself in the mix at the end of the week, with the big boys, which is always where you want to be.

"I'm a little gutted to lose silver to Mickey, but he deserved it. He sailed cracking all week and the same with Matt. Just to be up with those two and be in the conversation, it's a good place for me to be."

Gautrey had a special message for mum Susan, who has been supporting him from her home in Wellington.

"I'm sorry to my mother, who had to watch that - I'm sure she's pulling her hair out," Gautrey laughed.

"I think she's watched every minute of [race] tracking back in New Zealand from 2am to 4am so I feel sorry for her more than anything!"

With this result, Gautrey also secured New Zealand a position on the ILCA 7 start line at next year's Olympic Games in Paris.

He is one of six New Zealand crews to book a Games spot this week along with the 49er, 49erFX, Nacra 17, and men's and women's windfoil.

The 25-year-old will put his feet up for a few days before starting work with coach Mark Howard on the next chapter in what has been a breakout season for him - winning silver at the Princess Sofia Regatta in April and finishing fourth at last month's test event in Marseille in the most fiercely contested Olympic fleet.

"Obviously, I still have some things to tidy up on, because you don't come to these events to come third," Gautrey said.

"It will be an exciting next six or so months before the next [ILCA 7] world champs to try and close the gap up to Matty and Mickey."

Earlier this week, Isaac McHardie and Will McKenzie finished fourth in the 49er fleet, while Jo Aleh and Molly Meech (sixth in the 49erFX), Josh Armit (seventh in the men's windfoil), and Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson (eighth in the Nacra 17) all impressed in challenging conditions.

Experience in the strong current and difficult sea states throughout the week will stand the Kiwi sailors in good stead, said Yachting New Zealand high-performance director Ian Stewart.

"We're thrilled for George getting on the podium and battling for silver at the very end," Stewart said.

"We'd obviously love to have more medals, but we're buoyed that teams and sailors are moving in the right way. It's the world champs and to be the best in the world isn't easy but to have five teams in the top 10 is exciting and it all bodes well."