Maloney leads after the first day, one point ahead of Joan Cardona of Spain with European champion Zsombor Berecz a further seven points behind in third. Junior, who made history in 2019 by becoming the first Kiwi to win the Finn Gold Cup (world championships), is fifth, 12 points behind Maloney.

Some of the favourites, however, struggled with multiple world champion and defending Olympic champion Giles Scott of Great Britain 31 points behind Maloney in 14th and Nick Heiner of the Netherlands 16th. 

It illustrated how difficult it will be over the five-day regatta to bank consistently low scores, especially as conditions are only meant to get more difficult.

The 52-boat fleet raced in 6-10 knot breezes but also encountered 1.5m swells, strong tidal currents and big windshifts. The swell is forecast to nearly double in size over the coming days, which is why the race committee added a third race today to try to get ahead of the schedule.

“I found myself on the right side of quite a few big gains today so that helped massively,” Maloney said. “I think I managed to get around the top mark in relatively good shape in each race so it made my day much simpler than it could have been.

“The gains and losses were massive at times and there was the odd big windshift and some favourable current as well. Some people found themselves quite deep at times and found it hard to come back.”

Junior was one of those who did manage to work his way through the fleet when sometimes sitting quite deep to join Maloney as the only sailors to record three top-10 results. He was 10th, fifth and 10th while Maloney was third, second and eighth.

What made those numbers even more impressive was the fact the Finn Gold Cup represents the first regatta in the heavyweight dinghy for the pair since the 2019 Finn Gold Cup. They were key members of Emirates Team New Zealand’s defence of the America’s Cup and are also involved in the New Zealand team’s inaugural season in SailGP.

It means their bodies are more conditioned to grinding so three long races and seven to eight hours on the water overnight left them a little sore.

“It wasn’t the easiest way to ease back into Finn racing but we will pull up in pretty good shape tomorrow,” Maloney said. 

“It’s super-early days. It’s nice to know we have both got reasonably good pace after being out of the boat for a while but it was a really tricky day and everyone made a lot of mistakes today, including us, and we will have to race better than we did today to make sure we keep getting good results.”

Junior was equally satisfied with his scorecard but knows there’s a long way to go.

“The results ended up pretty good,” he said. “I was pretty happy in the end. I found myself quite far back in the fleet a few times and had to sail through to get some good results. 

“It’s always good to start well. It’s always good to be near the front of the fleet and not pick up too many bad results but nothing really changes for us. We just carry on and keep doing the things we are doing. We clearly have a lot of room to improve so we will keep chipping away.”

Results and standings after day 1 of the Finn Gold Cup in Porto, Portugal:

(52 boats)

1st: Andy Maloney (NZL) 3 2 8 – 13 points

2nd: Joan Cardona (ESP) 11 1 2 – 14 pts

3rd: Zsombor Berecz (HUN) 9 11 1 – 21 pts

5th: Josh Junior (NZL) 10 5 10 – 25 pts

Full results