Andy Maloney and Josh Junior made a brilliant start to the Finn Gold Cup in Melbourne, with the pair sitting on top of the leaderboard after day one.
Maloney and Junior had identical results – a race win and a fifth in the 60-boat fleet – and hold a four-point lead over Croatia’s Nenad Bugarin.
They revelled in the 12-knot breeze which kicked in at Port Phillip Bay after an hour-long delay and took advantage of some timely wind shifts to get their world championships campaign off to a rollicking start.
It wasn’t as comfortable as the results might suggest, however, and both found themselves back in the field at times. Junior was in 32nd at the top mark for the first time in the second race but worked his way through the fleet to finish fifth and level on points overall with his close friend and training partner.
“It was pretty tricky out there with some big shifts and phases and certainly plenty of opportunities downwind, which I think we made the most of,” he said.
“There are a lot of guys here who are sailing really, really fast and it’s a matter of putting the boat in the right spot and trying to make the most of what you have. If you put yourself in the right place, there are some big gains to be made.”
Maloney did that in the second race as he hooked into a right-hand shift off the start line and led all the way around the race track to ensure a New Zealand-flagged boat won both races today.
“It was a great start to the regatta with two solid races but it’s early days and there is plenty of racing to come,” he said. “We’re pretty excited for the rest of the week.”
No New Zealander has won the Finn Gold Cup in its 64-year history but the pair must be counted among the contenders this week after a strong run of results in 2019.
Maloney won both the World Cup Series Final in Marseille and Princess Sofia Regatta in Palma, was second at the Finn European championships in Athens and fourth at the Olympic test event. Junior was second at the World Cup Series Final and third at the Princess Sofia Regatta.
The Finn Gold Cup is Maloney’s first regatta since August and Junior’s first since June but any thoughts of a little rust were quickly forgotten.
“We had a good break after Japan and we’ve been back in the boat a month or so now, so I guess it’s the start of another season for us and it’s the world championship,” Maloney said. “The Finn Gold Cup is a pretty special trophy and I think for me that’s a great incentive, so to try to win that trophy is a pretty cool opportunity.”
With two races a day over the next five days, including Saturday’s medal race, there’s still a long way to go but Maloney and Junior will be feeling a lot more comfortable than some of their rivals who already have a reasonably deep finish on their cards.
Defending world champion Zsombor Berecz of Hungary was 23rd in the opening race and 2017 world champion Max Salminen had two scores in the twenties to leave him 24th overall.
Results and standings after day 1 of the Finn Gold Cup at the Royal Brighton Yacht Club in Melbourne today:
Finn (60 boats)
1st: Andy Maloney (NZL) 5 1 – 6 points
2nd: Josh Junior (NZL) 1 5 – 6 pts
3rd: Nenad Bugarin (CRO) 8 2 – 10 pts