It’s been a close battle between New Zealand’s two leading 49er FX crews on home waters this summer. Now it’s time to see how they compare on the world stage.
That’s the message from Molly Meech on the eve of the European season - the next big checkpoint on the road to the 2024 Olympic Games.
Meech and Jo Aleh officially start their second international season together on April 5 (New Zealand time) when more than 60 boats will line up for the first of 12 races at the Princess Sofia Regatta in Palma, Spain.
Alongside them will be fellow Kiwis Alex Maloney and Olivia Hobbs, with who they have been slugging it out for ascendancy in the domestic fleet for the past few months.
“There are two good boats coming from New Zealand and now we’re going to see what both of us can achieve on the world stage,” Meech told 1News.
“It would be fantastic to see both boats at the top of the leaderboard.”
Meech and Aleh were narrowly beaten by Maloney and Hobbs at both the 49er FX national championships and the Oceanbridge NZL Sailing Regatta in February - but both teams know there’s not much in it.
“It still feels like there’s always more to learn. We have to be good against the world and also beat our competitors in New Zealand,” Hobbs said.
Maloney and Meech, who together were at the front of the international 49er FX fleet for a decade - culminating in a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, decided to part ways after a disappointing 12th place at the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Both are still finding their feet in their new partnerships while keeping a close eye on their biggest competition for the likely single spot at next year’s showpiece event - each other.
“We’re training with Jo and Molly every day, training as a squad, and we’re trying to really push each other,” said Maloney.
“Naturally, we are comparing ourselves against them. We want to represent New Zealand really well at the Olympics.”
Aleh, who won Olympic 470 gold and silver, knows there’s plenty of work to do before either team can start dreaming of the podium in Paris.
Aleh only started sailing the 49er FX with Meech early in 2022 following a few years away from top-level competition.
“The Olympic goal is where we’re going but we know it will be an uphill battle,” Aleh told 1News.
“I’m lucky I’ve had Molly to show me how to sail this boat because I didn’t know how. She’s somehow stayed patient with all the falling over and dropping things along the way!”