Tokyo Olympics 2020: AUT Sailing Professor Mark Orams – Why I’m worried about Kiwi crews
27th July 2021

OPINION

It’s been a slow start for the Kiwi sailing crews at the Tokyo Olympics – four of the six classes New Zealand has representatives in have commenced racing.

None of these are in the top 10.

It’s early days in terms of the overall regatta, but the start by the NZL Olympic sailing team will not be rated as impressive by anyone watching.

Full Kiwi schedule below. Click on a name to see athlete’s bio, upcoming events, past Games performance and medal chance.

Laser sailor Sam Meech, Josh Junior (Finn), Alex Maloney and Molly Meech (49er FX), and the 49er duo of Peter Burling and Blair Tuke have all started their campaigns on a frustratingly slow note.

While the conditions have been tricky, with unstable breezes tumbling off the shore across Sagami Bay due to a typhoon offshore to the north, it has been the same for all competitors.

The Kiwis have just not dialled into these conditions, and Tuesday was particularly tough if you were following their progress in Tokyo.

They look race rusty to me. By that I mean, their decision-making on the racecourse has been average.

And average does not win you Olympic medals.

It’s understandable that their race-craft is not particularly sharp in the early part of this regatta.

With the exception of the Finn and the 470 class, the Kiwi crews have not been able to compete in any major international regattas this year.

It shows.

Training camps against the Australians and attempts to simulate high-quality racing doesn’t cut it. There is no substitute for real racing against the best in the world.

The massive disruptions to the international regatta sailing schedule have been an issue but these disruptions have been experienced by all competitors to varying degrees.

So, let’s not hear that as an excuse, please.

The good news is that the boat speed, boat handling, and fitness of the Kiwis look really good. This bodes well for the regatta overall as we can expect their race rust to fall away as more races are completed.

Further encouraging news is that from Wednesday the effects of the typhoon will dissipate and the forecast is for solid onshore breezes with big waves. These are the conditions the Kiwi crews tend to excel in.

Other reasons to keep the faith are the experience of the sailors and, most importantly, their coaches. The experienced wise heads of Hamish Wilcox, Nathan Handley, John Cutler and Jo Aleh will be key in turning things around.

A change in fortunes cannot come soon enough. The expectations of the NZL Olympic sailing team are extremely high. For them, this will not be the issue.

The poor start to this Olympics can only be changed with one strategy – focusing on the next race in front of them is what needs to happen. Delivering on their potential is the mission.

If they sail to their potential then the results will take care of themselves.

How our sailing crews are placed:

Sam Meech (men’s Laser) – 15th overall after 6/10 races.

Josh Junior (men’s Finn) – 14th overall after 2/10 races.

Alex Maloney and Molly Meech – 13th overall after 3/12 races.

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (49er) – 12th overall after opening race.

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