It’s one of the most prized trophies in Olympic class sailing and both Andy Maloney and Josh Junior are well placed to get their hands on it heading into the final day of the Finn Gold Cup tonight (NZ time).
Maloney holds a five-point lead over Hungary’s Zsombor Berecz in Porto and Junior is another five points behind in third.
It’s an impressive return for the New Zealand pair considering they had done very little sailing in the heavyweight dinghy over the last 18 months because of their America’s Cup and SailGP commitments.
Their last regatta in the Finn just happened to be the 2019 Finn Gold Cup when Junior became the first Kiwi to win the prestigious trophy since it was first competed for in 1956 and Maloney was sixth. Now they are aiming for one of them to be on the top step again.
“It’s great,” Maloney said. “We wouldn’t want to be anywhere else on the scoreboard right now but we have three big races tomorrow so plenty of work still to do. It’s all to play for but it’s great to be going into tomorrow in a good place.”
Racing resumed on the fourth day of the world championships after two days were abandoned due to unfavourable conditions.
A lack of wind and big swells scuppered attempts to race on day two and the third day was lost as a storm blew through. The fleet still spent six hours on the water trying to get a race away yesterday but were thwarted by winds coming in from all over the place, including a mini-tornado.
The weather settled down and last night’s three races were sailed in a building onshore breeze and sizeable swell.
Neither Junior nor Maloney started the day very well, with Junior 20th and Maloney 23rd in the 52-boat fleet, but they both recovered well and even recorded a New Zealand one-two in the final race of the day.
“It was a pretty awesome day’s racing,” said Junior, who won the last race. “Andy made an early mistake in the first race and I made a late one and we both ended up pretty bad. It was good to bounce back and get a few good ones at the end and it was good fun to battle Andy in the final race of the day.”
Berecz looms as the biggest threat, especially as the European champion has a superior drop of 11th for his worst result of the regatta so far, but Spain’s Joan Cardona is lurking in fourth only one point behind Junior. Multiple world champion and defending Olympic champion Giles Scott, who was a key member of Ineos Team UK’s America’s Cup challenge, is sixth.
Both Maloney and Junior admit their bodies are feeling it after some long days on the water and as they readjust to racing dinghies again.
“We are hoping everyone else is struggling just as much but it’s only one day to go so we will just rip it,” Junior said.
“Whatever happens, happens. We are just excited to be out there racing everyone else again. We just have to keep pushing hard and keep trying to do what we know we can do.
“It’s been awesome getting back in the Finn fleet and to race the other guys. They are certainly going pretty quick. I think it shows up some areas where we are not going so well. It’s been really good to get back into it and we can’t wait to get out there and do it tomorrow.”
Results and standings after day 4 of the Finn Gold Cup in Porto, Portugal:
1st: Andy Maloney (NZL) 3 2 8 (23) 3 2 – 18 points
2nd: Zsombor Berecz (HUN) 9 (11) 1 2 6 5 – 23 pts
3rd: Josh Junior (NZL) 10 5 10 (20) 2 1 – 28 pts