NZ sailors well placed at Laser world championships
The competitors at the Laser world championships in Sakaiminato were treated to "fantastic" conditions on day two and New Zealand's top sailors took advantage to put themselves right in the mix.
George Gautrey continued to impress and is third, although level on points with leader Jesper Stalheim of Sweden, Sam Meech improved 10 places to ninth overall and Tom Saunders also jumped into the top 20 after two top-10 results.
There's still one more day of qualifying before the top third of the 156-strong fleet move into gold fleet but the top three New Zealanders are doing their best to ensure they are handily placed for the final three days. Josh Armit is 84th overall and Luke Deegan 129th.
A number of the other contenders are also jostling near the top, including Olympic champion Tom Burton in sixth and world No 1 Matt Wearn eighth, and Brazil's Robert Scheidt wound back the clock with the 46-year-old two-time Olympic champion sandwiched in between the two Australians in seventh.
Only 15 points separate the top 20 boats on a congested leaderboard, although many have a reasonably big drop for their worst result already on their cards which will make things interesting.
Meech was the best performed of the Kiwis on day two, banking two second-placed finishes in his fleet to leave himself only four points behind the leaders.
"It was a much better day for me today," Meech said after racing. "We had fantastic sailing conditions, with 10-15 knots and nice waves. In the Laser it doesn't get much better than that.
"I got good starts and it wasn't shifting a lot so it was just about getting big lanes and trying to go fast. The downwinds were really, really good fun. I was up the front for most of the races, which was quite a contrast on yesterday so I felt a lot better."
Gautrey is feeling good about the way he is sailing, and was third and seventh in yesterday's two races to retain his position at the front of the leaderboard, but the 21-year-old is not getting ahead of himself.
"It's going well but the real racing starts in a couple days when we split into gold, silver and bronze fleets, so it's just a matter of trying to keep my head down and improving," he said.
"It was a bit simpler today [after shifty conditions on day one] but that makes things tricky as everyone seems like they know what they are doing. I was leading the first race but struggled on the second beat, with a big right shift costing me dearly. In the second one I had to fight back from mid-fleet around the top mark after a poor start. I need to clean up my act a little as we continue through the regatta."
The weather isn't going to make things any easier. Good winds are forecast again today, although thunderstorms could strike later in the afternoon, before the breeze is expected to die for the last three days.
"The venue likes to throw some curve balls at us so we will just have to wait and see," Gautrey said.
Results and standings after day 2 of the Laser world championships in Sakaiminato, Japan, yesterday (156 boats):
1st: Jesper Stalheim (SWE) (8) 3 3 1 - 7 points
2nd: Jean-Baptiste Bernaz (FRA) 3 2 (7) 2 - 7 pts
3rd: George Gautrey (NZL) 2 2 3 (7) - 7 pts
9th: Sam Meech (NZL) (12) 7 2 2 - 11 pts
20th: Tom Saunders (NZL) (21) 5 10 7 - 22 pts
84th: Josh Armit (NZL) (38) 27 18 26 - 71
129th: Luke Deegan (NZL) (47) 40 36 33 - 109 pts