Gemma Jones and Jason Saunders didn't really know what to expect in their first regatta together since last year's Olympics. Tonight (NZ time) they will sail for the gold medal at the sailing world championships test event in Aarhus.
The pair are second in the Nacra 17 fleet with three medal races scheduled tonight. They managed only one race this morning due to light winds, being sent out onto the course at 6pm Denmark time, and banked a second to leave them only three points behind the leaders, Lin Cenholt and Christian Lubeck of Denmark.
The light winds meant no sailing was possible in many of the other fleets, including the Laser where New Zealand's Tom Saunders is third and Sam Meech seventh. The Lasers are due to have three races tonight with their double-points medal race on Sunday night (NZ time).
Not only are Jones and Saunders racing in their first regatta together in 12 months but they are also doing it in the new foiling Nacra 17s that will be used at the Tokyo Olympics. They had a couple of days to train together on the new boat before the regatta started.
Many of the Nacra crews are yet to take possession of a new boat, including the young Kiwi pair of Liv Mackay and Micah Wilkinson, meaning it's a relatively small fleet of only 14 boats in Aarhus. Mackay and Wilkinson receive their new boat about one week before the start of next month's Nacra world championships.
The newness of the boat means all of the crews are trying to get to grips with how it sails in various conditions and Jones and Saunders have done a good job this week to put themselves in gold medal contention.
"Going into the medal races, it's pretty close on points and we definitely have a shot at winning the regatta so we are going to push hard in the three medal races tomorrow and see what we can come away with," Saunders said.
"It was really light winds today. We waited the whole day [for the breeze to build] and then got sent out at 6pm for one race in about 6-7 knots. We didn't have the best of starts but sailed really well, picked the shifts well and had really good speed, so we were really happy to end up in second.
"It was the first time Gemma and I had sailed upwind with a gennaker. It was good fun and made for some interesting racing. It's meant to be good breeze tomorrow so we are looking forward to getting some good racing in. It should be tight with the windy conditions and it should also be quite physical, so we're definitely looking forward to the challenge."
Tom Saunders is also looking forward to getting back on the water tonight. Saunders, who is in the Olympic development squad which sits just behind the top-tier NZL Sailing Team, is only six points off Australia's Matthew Wearn in first and also has a 17-point buffer over Rio silver medallist Tonci Stipanovic of Croatia in fourth.
"I just need to be prepared for a long day tomorrow and take it one race at a time," Saunders said. "I can't afford to think too far ahead because all three of us [in the top three] have had one bad race so it's really important to stay consistent."
Today's inactivity didn't help Sam Meech, who started the regatta badly but has climbed to seventh, but he still has a chance to salvage a respectable final result. The Rio bronze medallist was 43rd after the first day when he was disqualified in one race for being over the start line and finished 19th in the other. He's finished in the top 10 in the last three races, including two fourths.
There was also no racing for the Laser Radial fleet, where Susannah Pyatt is 13th, and Antonio Cozzolino finished the men's RS:X in 34th.
Results and standings from the sailing world championships test event in Aarhus overnight (NZ time):
Nacra 17 (14 boats)
1st: Lin Cenholt / Christian Lubeck (DEN) (5) 5 3 2 3 3 4 2 3 - 30 points
2nd: Gemma Jones / Jason Saunders (NZL) 2 1 3 (9) 8 4 7 2 4 2 - 33 pts
3rd: Anette Viborg/ Mathias Borreskov (DEN) 4 4 7 2 6 (15 UFD) 1 9 3 1 - 37 pts
Laser (62 boats)
1st: Matthew Wearn (AUS) 2 3 3 3 (33) 6 - 17 pts
2nd: Tom Burton (AUS) 3 2 8 1 (26) 4 - 18 pts
3rd: Tom Saunders (NZL) 6 4 (20) 2 10 1 - 23 pts
7th: Sam Meech (NZL) 19 (63 BFD) 14 4 4 9 - 50 pts
Laser Radial (27 boats)
13th: Susannah Pyatt (NZL) 12 18 (19) 7 9 9 - 55 pts
RS:X (46 boards)
34th: Antonio Cozzolino (NZL) 19 34 27 (39) 25 27 22 32 30 - 216 pts
- Pic: Gemma Jones and Jason Saunders finished second in today's only race at the sailing world championships test event. Photo: Sailing Energy / World Sailing.