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Sam Meech

Gautrey makes his mark on first day of Laser worlds

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George Gautrey continued his good form of 2019 and was second after the first day of the Laser world championships in Sakaiminato, Japan, yesterday.

The Wellington sailor was second in both of his races on the opening day of qualifying to sit level on points with Croatia's Filip Jurisic at the top of the leaderboard.

It was a day of relatively high scoring as many of the favourites battled in the light and shifty 5-10 knot conditions. There were a number of general recalls and black flag disqualifications and, to complicate matters, the the breeze at first shifted left and then right later in the day. 

The 159 sailors from 57 countries are split into three fleets for three days of qualifying which will be followed by three days of finals racing.

Sam Meech, the world's second-ranked Laser sailor, was 12th and seventh in his two races to be 19th overall but settling in behind him were the likes of Olympic champion Tom Burton (24th), defending world champion Pavlos Kontides (111th) and the No 1-ranked Matt Wearn (21st), who has won his last two regattas.

New Zealand's Tom Saunders was 21st and fifth in his two races to be 27th overall, 17-year-old Josh Armit is 100th and Luke Deegan 134th.

Gautrey is starting to make his mark on the senior fleet having finished in the top 10 in his last two regattas, including the Laser European championships. He's a former youth sailing world championships silver medallist but struggled with injuries in 2018.

"I'm just looking to continue to build on the performances from the European season," he said. "I had a good first day with a couple of top-five results. It was really tricky conditions so it was extremely hard to call what was going to happen.

"We had a long day on the water after being held ashore in the morning. There were many general recalls and black flags being handed out so I was happy to get through unscathed."

Meech has been a model of consistency since claiming bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics, collecting medals at a host of events over the past couple of years. He has finished second at his three regattas this year (Miami World Cup, Hyeres and Laser Europeans) and is chasing a first world title.

He did well to limit the damage yesterday after a couple of difficult starts in his fleet.

"It was a challenging first day for me," Meech said. "I had someone come under me in both starts in the last 20 seconds which made starting very difficult and I ended up head-to-wind towards start time. It meant I had really, really difficult first beats.

"I managed to pick off a few places around the course but ended up with not the best results. But there are still five more days to go so still lots of chances."

That will start today when a better breeze is expected to build in the afternoon.

Results and standings after day 1 of the Laser world championships in Sakaiminato, Japan, yesterday (156 boats):

1st: Filip Jurisic (CRO) 1 3 - 4 points
2nd: George Gautrey (NZL) 2 2 - 4 pts
3rd: Jean-Baptiste Bernaz (FRA) 3 2 - 5 pts

19th: Sam Meech (NZL) 12 7 - 19 pts
27th: Tom Saunders (NZL) 21 5 - 26 pts
100th: Josh Armit (NZL) 38 27 - 65
134th: Luke Deegan (NZL) 47 40 - 87 pts

Full results

  • Pic: Sam Meech is 19th after the first day of the Laser world championships in Japan. Photo: Junichi Hirai / Bulkhead Magazine.