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Sam Meech

Meech makes perfect start in Hyeres

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Sam Meech has some good memories of sailing in Hyeres and he's on his way to creating some more after winning both of his races on the first day of the 51st Semaine Olympique Française overnight (NZ time).

The 28-year-old won silver at the venue in 2016 which confirmed his spot at the Olympics later that year - he went on to win bronze in Rio - and he was also second in Hyeres in 2018 when it was part of the World Cup Series circuit.

Meech won both of his races on the opening day of racing overnight to open up a small gap on the rest of the 69-strong fleet, but he is being chased by a gaggle of four Australians, including Olympic champion Tom Burton and Matthew Wearn.

Tom Saunders is the next best of the New Zealanders in 17th, finishing 21st and second in his two races, followed by George Gautrey in 20th, Josh Armit in 39th and Luke Deegan in 57th. What was particularly impressive was a Kiwi one-two-three in the second race of one fleet.

Two New Zealanders are competing in the Laser Radial, with Annabelle Rennie-Younger 12th after finishing eighth and 25th in her two races and Olivia Christie 19th (31st and 11th).

The Semaine Olympique Française, or French Olympic Week, represents the first European regatta of the season for New Zealand's Laser sailors. They opted to sit out regattas in Palma and Genoa to train at home but have returned to the circuit ahead of the European and world championships.

Hyeres features only four classes, the Laser and Radial as well as the men's and women's RS:X (no Kiwis are competing in the windsurfing).

It's also the first regatta since Meech had knee surgery and he's clearly found form early at a venue he's done well at before.

"My last couple of events here have been awesome, so I've got some fantastic memories from here," he said. 

"It can sometimes be really good and sometimes really bad. You've seen situations before and sometimes they don't play out how you remember them. I think most of the time racing here it's just keeping your head out of the boat and looking at what's coming next because things can change so quickly. That's what makes it so tricky and so great."

Competitors had to contend with a breeze out of the north in the morning and it had virtually switched around to the south by the afternoon.

"The first race was pretty light and a bit more breeze in the second, which was nice to stretch the legs a bit," Meech said. "Both races were pretty close. I felt like I got a little bit of a gap in the second one but they all caught right back up to me on the last run, so it was pretty stressful."

Results and standing after the first day of the Semaine Olympique Française in Hyères:

Laser (69 boats)

1st: Sam Meech (NZL) 1 1 - 2 points
2nd: Tom Burton (AUS) 4 3 - 7 pts
3rd: Matthew Wearn (AUS) 7 1 - 8 pts

17th: Tom Saunders (NZL) 21 2 - 23 pts
20th: George Gautrey (NZL) 22 3 - 25 pts
39th: Josh Armit (NZL) 19 18 - 37 pts
57th: Luke Deegan (NZL) 26 30 - 56 pts

Laser Radial (50 boats)

1st: Maria Erdi (HUN) 1 4 - 5 pts
2nd: Caroline Rosmo (NOR) 3 2 - 5 pts
3rd: Jacinta Ainsworth (AUS) 9 3 - 12 pts

12th: Annabelle Rennie-Younger (NZL) 8 25 - 33 pts
19th: Olivia Christie (NZL) 31 11 - 42 pts

Full results here

File pic: Sam Meech has some good memories from competing in Hyeres. Photo: Sailing Energy / World Sailing.