Things could hardly have gone much better for Andy Maloney this year and the Finn sailor will be hoping that continues over the next few days at the Olympic test event in Enoshima.
The 29-year-old opened his European season with a win at the Princess Sofia regatta in Palma and backed it up with second at the Finn European championships in Athens and another gold medal from the World Cup Series Final in Marseille.
It's been a remarkable return for someone who only started sailing the heavyweight Finn dinghy less than two years ago. It was a change brought about by Maloney's transformation in body shape through his involvement with Emirates Team New Zealand in the last America's Cup, and some still remember a much smaller Maloney narrowly missing out on selection to Sam Meech for the 2016 Rio Olympics in the Laser class.
Maloney's victory in Marseille came more than two months ago so he's itching to get back into competition, especially as this week's regatta is at the Olympic venue and raced under the same conditions as the Games with, in most cases, only one sailor from each country.
"This is a key event in the learning process for the Games," Maloney said. "It’s the only real opportunity we get with an Olympic-sized fleet at the Olympic venue before the Games. Most of the other fleets we race in are up to 100 boats, so it will be a really key learning experience.
"2019 has been a really good season for me. I have had quite a few good events, and working really closely with Josh [Junior] we have made some big gains this year. Josh has helped me heaps in the buildup and getting me up to speed with the big waves here. Drawing on his experience in the Finn class has been really helpful."
The pair have taken collaboration to a new level, sharing everything from training and racing, and it has seen both excel on the world stage this year. On top of Maloney's successes, Junior was third in Palma and second in Marseille.
"Those results have given Josh and I a lot of confidence in the changes we made earlier in the season to get a little bit more pace in certain conditions. We are really happy with the package we have got going right now. The fleet is continuing to improve so we are just trying to get those little gains from now up until the Games.
"This week we have done a regular buildup to a big event with both Josh and I feeding off each other, trying to get a handle on conditions and figuring out how we can go as fast as we can out there in these big waves. Having his experience and knowledge, as well as [coach and former Olympian] Andrew Murdoch, has seen some massive gains from day one. Now I’m feeling much better in the boat and I'm really looking forward to getting out there."
Conditions should have settled considerably by the time racing is scheduled to get under way on Saturday. A typhoon is making its way across Japan and today is expected to bring strong winds in excess of 30 knots and 2m swells which will make it too dangerous for the 363 sailors from nearly 50 countries competing in the test event to train on the water.
Sam Meech was one of the few who sailed yesterday and will be among the favourites in the Laser class. The rest of the New Zealand team is made up of Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (49er), Alex Maloney and Molly Meech (49erFX), Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Willcox (men's 470) and Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson (Nacra 17).
- Pic: Andy Maloney won his last regatta, the World Cup Series Final in Marseille. Photo: Sailing Energy / World Sailing.