This year’s 49er world championships will be a little different to those of the recent past, not least of all because Peter Burling and Blair Tuke won’t win.
Burling and Tuke have dominated the 49er class, winning four-straight world titles and last year’s Rio Olympics. In fact, they won every major regatta following the 2012 London Olympics and won gold in Rio by a whopping 43 points.
The pair won’t be in Porto for the upcoming 49er and 49erFX world championships, having recently helped Emirates Team New Zealand claim the America’s Cup. They’re now in preparation mode for the upcoming Volvo Ocean Race.
Their absence will feel strange for many, including 49erFX Olympic silver medallists Alex Maloney and Molly Meech who have been to eight world championships with Burling and Tuke.
“We will miss them,” Maloney said. “They have been really good role models for us and have always been there if ever we have any questions. It will be strange not having them there but they have left us with some good knowledge.”
Maloney and Meech have good pedigree of their own. On top of their Olympic silver medal, they won the 2013 world championships and have medalled in various World Cups and European championships, but they’re trying to achieve greater consistency.
They have performed well so far this year, finishing second at Kiel Week and, but for a costly mistake, would have been in the medals at the World Cup regatta in Santander in their first major competition since Rio.
“We are feeling good in the boat and know we can perform well at the world championships,” Maloney said. “We’re excited to go over there and lay down a good performance.”
A lot of that will hinge on their starts. The pair identified that as one of the main areas that needed work following a widespread debrief after their Rio Olympics campaign.
“It’s about being really assertive on the start line and trying to nail that aspect so we’re not playing catch-up through the fleet,” Maloney said.
It’s something they’ve spent a lot of time working on with new coach Nathan Handley.
Handley previously helped Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie to gold at the London Olympics and silver last year in Rio and also worked with Burling and Tuke during the early part of their combination. He also oversaw Maloney and Meech’s campaign in 2013 when they won their world title.
Maloney and Meech have been in Porto for nearly three weeks with the rest of the New Zealand team preparing for the world championships.
They will be joined at the start line in the 49erFX by Erica Dawson and Kate Stewart, a young crew who were 15th at the recent 49er European championships.
Josh Porebski and Trent Rippey have been in good form this year and will line up in the 49er fleet with fellow Kiwis Isaac McHardie and William McKenzie.
Porebski was second with Marcus Hansen in the 2013 49er world championships and has been sailing with Rippey for the past 18 months. They were eighth at the World Cup final regatta in Santander, 10th in Hyeres and 13th at Kiel Week.
Racing gets underway in Porto on Monday evening (NZ time).