The Finn Gold Cup had proved elusive to New Zealand sailors for so long but today Andy Maloney became the second Kiwi in 18 months to get his hands on the prestigious trophy.
Maloney went into the final day in Porto with a narrow five-point lead but banked three solid scores today to win his first world title. What made it even more special was that Josh Junior, who went in as defending champion after his historic victory in 2019, finished third.
The pair have a unique relationship, working extremely closely together, and it's clearly paying dividends. It just means the Olympic selectors now have a very difficult decision to make with only one able to compete at the Tokyo Games.
The other will still travel to Japan and support the sailor chosen as their coach.
Maloney finished seven points ahead of Spain's Joan Cardona, with Junior a further three points back in third, but there was some controversy afterwards with a protest against Cardona for his tactics in the final race of the regatta. It didn't make much difference to Maloney, who savoured his regatta win.
"It feels awesome for the Finn Gold Cup to be staying in New Zealand after Josh won it last time," he said. "It's also my first Olympic class world championship, so that's pretty special as well. And to have both Josh and I on the podium here is also really cool.
"Going down the final run, there was a lot of difference between me and the guys who could overtake me on the results. I felt pretty good at that stage but nothing is done in yachting so I just tried to get to the finish as best I could and just let it all out when I crossed the line."
Neither knew how they would go this week, especially as they've spent little time in the Finn over the last 18 months because of their America's Cup commitments and the interruptions caused by Covid-19. In fact, their last regatta in the heavyweight dinghy, was the 2019 Finn Gold Cup in Melbourne and they were up against a high quality fleet in the final stages of Olympic preparations.
But it clearly came back to them quickly, and they both banked a series of consistently low scores across the nine races in the 52-boat fleet.
"We knew it was going to be challenging but we had a lot of good notes and believed in what we do," Junior said. "We knew that if we sailed well we could do it and I think we did that so we're really happy with the outcome.
"It’s bloody awesome to be on the podium again. It’s pretty special to be in the top three at the world championships but I'm just over the moon for Andy winning. To keep the Gold Cup in New Zealand is something special. I’m super-stoked for him."
Maloney and Junior will stay in Portugal to continue their buildup to the Olympics before heading to Italy for the next round of the SailGP.
Results and standings after day 5 of the Finn Gold Cup in Porto, Portugal:
1st: Andy Maloney (NZL) 3 2 8 (23) 3 2 15 5 6 - 44 points
2nd: Joan Cardona (ESP) 26 11 1 2 11 5 10 3 8 (28) - 51 pts
3rd: Josh Junior (NZL) 10 5 10 (20) 2 1 14 3 9 - 54 pts
- Pic: Andy Maloney and Josh Junior celebrate at the Finn Gold Cup. Photo: BB Douro.