Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn will have surfing and fishing on their minds over the next couple of weeks but the main item on their agenda is winning a medal for New Zealand at the Tokyo Olympics.
That is no small ambition, given the quality of the 49er fleet and the impending return to action of Olympic and four-time world champions Peter Burling and Blair Tuke.
Crucially, though, Dunning Beck and Gunn qualified the boat for the 2020 Games and it will now come down to one of four New Zealand crews for the ticket to Japan.
Dunning Beck and Gunn have shown enough since they teamed up about 12 months ago to suggest they have great potential. They finished third in today’s medal race at the world championships in Aarhus to be seventh overall and it’s come on the back of medals at both last year’s Olympic Week in Japan and the World Cup in Hyeres.
“It feels great to have [Olympic qualification] out of the way so early,” Gunn said. “It doesn’t guarantee we are going to go but it’s something we don’t have to worry about in the future. We can carry on racing and try to beat all the other Kiwis.”
Dunning Beck added: “We have had a couple of good results so far. There’s still a heck of a long way to go. It’s like staring at a massive hill to climb in the next two years to try to win the spot and then win a medal at the Olympics but we are having fun and improving really fast, which is the most important thing. We will carry on and keep doing what we are doing.”
Alex Maloney and Molly Meech will take a similar approach.
The pair came to the world championships as title contenders, having won their last regatta, but things didn't fall their way. They were fifth in the medal race and eighth overall, which meant they ticked off a significant achievement.
Above: Alex Maloney and Molly Meech with their silver medals at Rio 2016
“It’s really cool to qualify New Zealand a spot in the 49erFX,” Meech said. “It’s only two years to Tokyo so it’s exciting it’s all underway. The next thing is selection. It’s going to be an exciting couple of years.”
The final 49erFX medal race was full of drama and excitement.
Maloney and Meech sailed well and were second when a big squall ahead of a thunderstorm hit the stadium course in the Bay of Aarhus. The Austrian combination, who had been leading the race and were 11 points ahead of their nearest rival, capsized as the wind swung around the compass, allowing the Dutch pair of Annemiek Bekkering and Annette Duetz to snatch gold.
“After the first lap, it started to get a bit crazy and shifted quite far left and then a huge right pressure band came in and it seemed the people further back managed to get it first and the whole thing tipped on itself,” Meech said. “It was pretty crazy.”
It was so wacky, none of the teams flew kites on the final downwind leg given the wind had shifted around the dial.
“For us this week, there were a few surprises and unexpected things happened on the course,” Maloney said. “We couldn’t quite get the shifts we are normally quite confident on. It was a funky week and if you were on form you could nail it, but we were just missing a few things that way.”
The 49erFX medal race ended New Zealand’s involvement at the world championships.
Josh Junior and Sam Meech achieved the best results, fourth in the Finn and Laser respectively, but New Zealand qualified six classes for the Tokyo Olympics which had been the target. The majority of the New Zealand sailors will next month head to Japan to race, when Olympic ambitions will be brought into focus.Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games Molly Meech Alexandra Maloney Josh Junior Sam Meech