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Peter Burling and Blair Tuke

Meet the Excellence Awards winners - pt III

Issue date

The 2020 Volvo Yachting Excellence Awards are just around the corner and some winners have already been announced. In the third of a three-part series, meet the winners in the performance category supported by Zhik.

Peter Burling & Blair Tuke (Tauranga Yacht & Power Boat Club / Kerikeri Cruising Club)

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke
Photo: Sailing Energy.

These two continue to set new levels of achievements. Peter Burling and Blair Tuke won their fifth and sixth 49er world titles in the space of three months over the summer but what made this truly remarkable was that it was the first time they had competed in the class at a world championships since 2016 due to their America's Cup and Ocean Race commitments. Their 2019 title was particularly special, achieving it on home waters in New Zealand and they also did it in dramatic fashion on the final day. The pair are gunning for back-to-back gold medals at next year's Tokyo Olympics and have already been named in the New Zealand team.

Logan Dunning Beck & Oscar Gunn (Wakatere Boating Club / Murrays Bay Sailing Club)

Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn
Photo: Sailing Energy.

Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn had another exceptional year, finishing fifth at the 2019 49er world championships in Auckland, when they won two races and were second in the medal race, and then sixth at the 2020 worlds in Geelong soon after. On top of that, they were also third at the 2019 Oceania 49er championships when three Kiwi combinations finished in the top five to further illustrate the depth in the New Zealand 49er fleet.

Honda Marine - David McDiarmid, Matt Steven & Brad Collins (Royal Akarana Yacht Club)

Honda Marine

It's gone from famine to feast as Honda Marine claimed their third-straight JJ Giltinan Trophy in March to strengthen their claim as the world's best 18-foot skiff team. David McDiarmid, Matt Steven and Brad Collins sailed consistently well all week, never finishing outside the top four across the nine-race regatta, and relied on their speed and slick boat handling to get them to the front of the fleet. It wasn't any normal regatta, with tremendous uncertainty surrounding the event from the outset as Covid-19 took hold in Australasia, but the trio held their nerve to finish four points ahead of their nearest rivals.

Josh Junior (Worser Bay Boating Club)

Josh Junior
Photo: Robert Deaves.

New Zealand has a proud tradition in the Finn class, with the likes of Sir Russell Coutts, John Cutler, Craig Monk, Jonty Farmer and Dan Slater all excelling on the international stage, but no Kiwi had won the Finn Gold Cup (world championships). That was until Josh Junior. The Worser Bay sailor took a handy 16-point lead into the top-10 medal race in Melbourne last December thanks to his excellent start (all top-five placings in the first seven races) and safely navigated the medal race to cap off an impressive 12 months. He was supposed to defend his title in Palma in May but will now switch his focus to 2021.

Knots Racing - Nick Egnot-Johnson, Sam Barnett, Bradley McLaughlin & Zak Merton (Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron)

Knots Racing
Photo: Drew Malcolm.

Knots Racing regularly finished on the podium at events over the last 12 months to affirm their position as the world's second-ranked match racing team. They were second at the Hardy Cup and Warren Jones International, both held earlier this year, second at last year's Thompson Cup and Oakcliff International, and third at both the youth world match racing championships and youth international match race cup. Their results at the Thompson Cup and Oakcliff International meant they finished third overall in the US Grand Slam, even though they competed in only two of the four events.

Scott Leith (Murrays Bay Sailing Club)

Scott Leith
Photo: Smokey Lemon.

Scott Leith won his first Laser masters world title in 2010 and hasn't really stopped winning since. Last October in the Netherlands he collected his 10th world masters title and did it despite suffering from the flu in the first few days of competition and a broken vang in one race and black flag disqualification in another. Leith was all set to chase an 11th title in Melbourne in March but the Laser masters world championships were cancelled just hours before it was due to start. In January he was also second at the Laser Radial national championships in New Plymouth.

Alex Maloney & Molly Meech (Murrays Bay Sailing Club / Royal Akarana Yacht Club)

Alex Maloney and Molly Meech
Photo: Sailing Energy.

Alex Maloney and Molly Meech will look back on their results over the last 12 months with mixed emotions, and that's a reflection of the high standards they set. They won the 2019 49erFX Oceania championships in Auckland, were second three months later in the same event in Geelong, picked up silver at the World Cup Series event in Enoshima and were sixth at the 2019 49erFX world championships on home waters. But they had high hopes of winning a second 49erFX world title in Geelong before Maloney broke her foot in a freak training accident. Maloney and Meech have already earned selection for the Tokyo Olympics, where they will look to add to the silver medal they claimed in Rio in 2016.

Andy Maloney (Murrays Bay Sailing Club)

Andy Maloney
Photo: Robert Deaves.

Andy Maloney has established himself as one of the world's best Finn sailors over the past couple of years and is presently third in the world rankings. He finished sixth at last year's Finn Gold Cup, won by good friend and training partner Josh Junior, to further illustrate the success of the New Zealand Finn programme. The pair have been able to do it while juggling their Emirates Team New Zealand commitments.

Sam Meech (Tauranga Yacht & Power Boat Club)

Sam Meech
Photo: Jon West.

Sam Meech has been one of the world's best Laser sailors for the past few years and finished eighth at this year's Laser world championships in Melbourne. Meech has extremely high standards and admitted that the world champs "didn't go to plan" but he was still pushing for a medal on the final day in the highly-competitive class. He collected silver at the Australian Laser championships on the eve of the world championships and was also second at this year's Moth national championships. Meech is now targetting another medal at next year's Tokyo Olympics following the bronze he claimed in Rio in 2016.

Lukas Walton-Keim & Justina Kitchen (Takapuna Boating Cub)

Justina Kitchen

Justina Kitchen teamed up with Lukas Walton-Keim to claim bronze in the mixed relay at the Formula Kite European Championships in Sardinia. It was a significant result given mixed kitefoiling has been included on the programme for the 2024 Paris Olympics and it was also the first time it had been raced at the European championships. The mixed relay featured national teams of one man and one women who each completed a single lap of the track, with the added drama of a flying handover. Kitchen was also fifth in the women's event and Sam Bullock seventh in the men's field to round out an impressive week from New Zealand's top kitefoilers.

Micah Wilkinson & Erica Dawson (Ngaroto Sailing Club / Murrays Bay Sailing Club)

Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson
Photo: Sailing Energy.

Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson have showed in a short space of time what they are capable of. The pair teamed up in the middle of 2019 - they also switched positions from their previous combinations, with Wilkinson taking the helm and Dawson moving to crew - and finished seventh at the 2020 Nacra 17 world championships in Melbourne. Impressively, they were in the top 10 eight times across the 12 races and this sort of form helped convince the Olympic selectors to pick them for the Tokyo Games.

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