It is a measure of Peter Burling and Blair Tuke’s class that even on a day when they weren’t totally in their groove they are still in with a good chance of claiming a fifth 49er world title.
The pair still sit second at the Hyundai 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 world championships at the Royal Akarana Yacht Club after finishing 11th, third and seventh in the first three races of gold fleet action.
They lost a little ground on Germany’s Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel and now find themselves nine points adrift with five gold fleet races scheduled before Sunday’s double points medal race.
Significantly, however, their drop for their worst result is considerably better than the Germans – their worst is 11th and the Germans have a 27th on their scorecard – meaning the picture can change very quickly with one bad race.
“Ten points is one bad decision, one luff, one lull,” Burling said. “It was really tight racing and if you make one little mistake you really pay for it and we were a bit mixed today. We could have carried a lot more points than we did and we didn’t lose our drop today, either. A lot of people had a pretty big one.”
That list included the Austrian pair of Benjamin Bildstein and David Hussl who started the day in third and slipped to ninth overall, as well as Great Britain’s Dylan Fletcher-Scott and Stuart Bithell who were 21st in their last race and are fourth overall. In fact, Burling and Tuke now hold a handy 23-advantage over France’s Lucas Rual and Emile Amoros in third.
Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn lost some ground, slipping from sixth to eighth with three middling scores, but the third Kiwi combination of Isaac McHardie and William McKenzie climbed from 22nd to 14th overall on the back of three solid races.
It was another frustrating day for Alex Maloney and Molly Meech in the 49erFX, with the Olympic silver medallists opening up with a 20th before finishing ninth and fourth in the other two races.
Olympic champions Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze of Brazil now hold an 11-point lead over reigning world champions Annemiek Bekkering and Annette Duetz of the Netherlands. Although Maloney and Meech are ninth, they’re only 21 points off third so have plenty to play for.
“We’re feeling a bit frustrated with our performance but we still believe anything can happen and we can still fight our way back up,” Maloney said.
“I think we are going to go out there punchy-as [tomorrow] and really try to get off the start line to give ourselves the best opportunity to win some races because we know we can do that.”
Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson proved that when they won the final race of the day in the Nacra 17 fleet and are now 17th overall, three points behind fellow Kiwis Liv Mackay and Jason Saunders in 15th.
All three of the New Zealand Nacra 17 crews in gold fleet are new combinations and all three have had their moments this week and today’s bullet was the first at international level for Wilkinson and Dawson.
“It was so nice to finally execute our plan and then lead the four-time world champion [Billy Besson of France] around the course and hold him off,” Wilkinson said. “It was pretty exciting, although pretty nerve racking.”
Dawson added: “I will remember this one for a while. It was a lot of fun leading from the beginning. When you’re out in front and clear ahead, it’s quite simple.”
The America’s Cup made an appearance at the Royal Akarana Yacht Club today but most of the sailors have their eyes on a different prize. The medals will be handed out on Sunday and, for many, it’s still all on the line.
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