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Sam Meech

Meech suffers blow ahead of Laser nationals

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Sam Meech didn't exactly have the best start to the year.

There he was after a training session at Gulf Harbour when his brand new Laser went for an unscheduled outing.

"Tom Saunders was behind me on the ramp and he needed his trailer," Meech explained. "I left my boat at the top of the ramp and ran down with his trailer. In the 30 seconds I was gone, the thing blew off the trailer and blew away. There was a decent amount of damage. Not my best start to a year’s sailing."

History and logic would suggest things will improve.

The 27-year-old ended 2018 as the world's No 1-ranked Laser sailor after an 18-month period that saw him win his first World Cup regatta (Gamagori) and finish on the podium at Palma, the Laser Europeans and Hyeres and Enoshima World Cups. Meech also led the sailing world championships for a number of days before having to settle for fourth.

"I was stoked with how last year went," he said. "I was a little disappointed with my worlds result but my goal was to be in contention at every event I went to and I was there or thereabouts with a chance to win a medal going into the last race every time so I was pretty happy.

"Previously I tried to focus on one or two events but last year I actually tried to be on better form for most of the year. Maybe I didn’t quite get to my absolute best but I don’t think I was that far off it. A couple of decisions here or there at the worlds and it would have been awesome."

Meech returns to racing this weekend at the Laser national championships at the Manly Sailing Club but he's unlikely to win a maiden national title given he will miss the last day to attend a wedding. The groom happens to be Andy Maloney, who won the Laser nationals from 2013-15 but who is now campaigning in the heavyweight Finn class.

The Laser nationals have also attracted world No 2 Philipp Buhl and will also feature the likes of Saunders and George Gautrey as well as 2017 youth world champion Josh Armit who has recently stepped up to the full rig from the Laser Radial.

Meech will head to Miami for a World Cup regatta at the end of January and will also compete in Europe in April and May, but his main focus this year is on Japan.

"The [Laser] worlds are in Japan and from here on in there’s a lot more focus on the Olympic venue so that changes things a little bit," he said. "We need to try to work out what goes on there a little more.

"I’m starting to understand the place. It’s a tricky venue. There are some amazing days there and then some really tricky ones. This year I hope we get a better feel for it."

The Rio Olympic bronze medallist, though, is trying not to obsess about the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, even though so much of his funding and support is based on what happens at the Games.

"I really want to enjoy racing the events the whole way through. Last time I put way too much focus on the Olympics and didn’t really appreciate all the events along the way.

"It meant that in the last campaign, especially when it came down to selection, I wasn’t really enjoying the sailing because I was so worried about it. There’s no point me doing another cycle and not enjoying it. I would rather enjoy it and not get selected than not enjoy the whole experience."

It's fair to say, though, that Meech would rather not experience seeing a new boat getting blown off a trailer again.