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Oceanbridge Sail Auckland: Young 49er crews impress on day 1

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It was billed as the showdown between New Zealand's two 49er heavyweights on the eve of their final battle for Olympic selection, but instead, it was two of the country's upcoming skiff crews who caught the attention on the first day of the 2024 Oceanbridge Sail Auckland.

The two-day regatta, the country's top event for Olympic and youth classes, delivered several upsets in light breeze off Torbay.

None of those were more unexpected than the performances of Francesco Kayrouz and Hamish Mclaren, and Seb Menzies and George Lee Rush in the 49er fleet.

Kayrouz and Mclaren won the second of three races against their more fancied opponents, while Menzies and Lee Rush found themselves second overall with scores of 2, 2 and 4.

They are two points behind Isaac McHardie and Will McKenzie, one of two teams vying for the sole spot on the 49er start line at the Paris Olympic Games in just over five months.


Francesco Kayrouz and Hamish Mclaren surprised on day 1 at Torbay. Photos / Jacob Fewtrell Media

McHardie and McKenzie will slug it out with Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn at the final selection trial - the 49er world championships in Lanzarote next month.

"It was pretty tricky out there but still good to get three good races away before the wind shut down," McHardie said.

"It's another great opportunity to be racing against such a strongly contested fleet, with the young guys coming up. That showed today with them taking quite a few races off us. Just to be on the start line with these guys and having them put us under pressure is awesome."

McHardie and McKenzie won the first race, with Dunning Beck and Gunn claiming the last.

"We're just trying to take a bit of confidence into the event but we know that what we need to achieve is to beat everyone in the world," McKenzie added.

"We have our expectations set high and we're still pushing ourselves."


Isaac McHardie and Will McKenzie lead in the 49er fleet. Photos / Jacob Fewtrell Media

There were no similar surprises in the 49erFX competition, with veterans Jo Aleh and Molly Meech winning all three races to lead by three points from Courtney and Brianna Reynolds-Smith.


Jo Aleh and Molly Meech dominated in the 49erFX competition. Photos / Jacob Fewtrell Media

Tokyo Olympians Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson also enjoyed a perfect day against their Dutch and Japanese competitors in the mixed multihull Nacra 17.

Meanwhile, a consistent performance in her first sail for nearly three weeks has put 20-year-old Greta Pilkington on course to defend her title in the ILCA 6 competition.

Pilkington was beaten by Naiomi Ferrissey at the recent class national championships in Napier but was back at her best in two races on Saturday before the wind died.

She managed two top-threes to lead by three points from Arran Begic the hotly contested fleet, with four more races planned for Sunday.

"It was good just to get back in the boat and figure things out again after taking some time off after nationals," Pilkington said.

"I still made a few mistakes out there but was pretty consistent, focussed on the process and trying to keep it simple and have fun."


Greta Pilkington leads the ILCA 6 fleet after two races. Photos / Jacob Fewtrell Media

Two race wins to round out the day saw Luke Cashmore move into the lead in the ILCA 7 competition, while Derek Scott and Rebecca Hume (470) and Cam Brown and Alex Norman (420) are at the front of their respective fleets.

Brianna Orams is the early leader in the windfoil 8m class, with Olympic hopeful Veerle ten Have in second after a DNF in the second race of the day.

Josh Armit has a slim lead in the 9m fleet, following a sluggish start to the competition.

He was beaten by teammates Eli Liefting and Thomas Crook in the first two races, before getting the bullet in the last outing.

Armit, Liefting and Crook only just returned from the iQFOIL world championships in Lanzarote, where they had mixed results.

"For a while we were sitting on the beach, wondering if we would get out there so we were lucky to get three races in," Crook said.

"It was pretty hard work as we just got off the plane - I only got back [from Lanzarote] yesterday - so there was definitely a bit of jetlag."


Thomas Crook in action in the 9m windfoil. Photos / Jacob Fewtrell Media

Crook was content with the team's performance abroad while hoping to further improve at this regatta.

"It's always hard not to look at where the opportunities could have been and what you could have done to shave a few points off here and there but overall we're moving in the right direction," he said.

"It's cool that racing was so tight. It says something about the quality of the fleet in New Zealand. There are plenty of good guys domestically and some of the youth sailors are also coming through.

"Tomorrow is looking pretty windy, so hopefully we can get six course races in."

Results and standings from day 1 of Oceanbridge Sail Auckland, hosted by Torbay Sailing Club:

420 feet (2 boats)
1. Cam Brown/Alex Norman 1 1 1 - 3 points
2. Zara Scott/Amelia Higson 2 2 2 - 6 pts

470 fleet (2 boats)
1. Derek Scott/Rebecca Hume 1 2 1 - 4 pts
1. Blake McGlashan/Megan Thomson 2 1 2 - 5 pts 

ILCA 6 fleet (25 boats)
1. Greta Pilkington 2 3 - 5 pts
2. Arran Begic 3 5 - 8 pts
3. Winston Liesebach 1 8 - 9 pts

ILCA 7 fleet (4 boats)
1. Luke Cashmore 3 1 1 - 5 pts
2. Dylan Forsyth 2 2 2 - 6 pts
3. Caleb Armit 1 4 4 - 9 pts 

Course B:

Kitefoil (3 boards)
1. Hugo Wigglesworth 1 1 - 2 pts
2. Justina Kitchen 2 2 - 4 pts
3. Lucy Bilger 3 4DNF - 7 pts

Windfoil 8m (9 boards)
1. Brianna Orams 4 1 5 - 10 pts
2. Veerle ten Have 1 10DNF 2 - 13 pts
3. George Solly - 5 2 7 - 14 pts

Windfoil 9m (7 boards)
1. Josh Armit 3 2 1 - 6 pts
2. Eli Liefting 1 3 2 - 6 pts
3. Thomas Crook 2 1 8BFD - 11 pts

29er fleet (18 boats)
1. Tom Pilkington/Morgan Lay 2 1 2 - 5 pts 
2. Will Leech/Sean Kensington 3 4 1 - 8 pts
3. William Mason/Giorgio Mattiuzzo 1 3 4 - 8 pts

49er fleet (8 boats)
1. Isaac McHardie/Will McKenzie 1 3 2 - 6 pts
2. Seb Menzies/George Lee Rush 2 2 4 - 8 pts
3. Francesco Kayrouz/Hamish Mclaren 4 1 5 - 10 pts

49erFX fleet (4 boats)
1. Jo Aleh/Molly Meech 1 1 1 - 3 pts
2. Courtney Reynolds-Smith/Brianna Reynolds-Smith 2 2 2 - 6 pts
3. Lizzie Shapland/Jack Simpson 3 3 4 - 10 pts

Nacra 17 fleet (3 boats)
1. Micah Wilkinson/Erica Dawson 1 1 1 - 3 pts
2. Laila van der Meer/Bjarne Bouwer (Ned) 2 2 2 - 6 pts
3. Yuki Watanabe/Minori Ueda (Jap) 3 3 3 - 9 pts

Full results here.