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Strong NZ team named for Olympic test event in Marseille

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Twelve sailors will represent New Zealand in nine of the 10 Olympic classes at July's Olympic test event in Marseille, just over a year out from the Paris Games.

The test event is considered a dress rehearsal for the Olympics, with competitors racing at the same venue and against a similar level of competition to what they’ll encounter at the quadrennial showpiece next year.

Yachting New Zealand high performance director Ian Stewart said selection was hotly contested across several of the classes, as was evident at the first two regattas of the new European season - the Princess Sofia Regatta in Palma de Mallorca, and the World Cup in Hyères.

One of those classes is the 49er, where Isaac McHardie and Will McKenzie won the nod over Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn following a bronze medal in Spain and a sixth place in France.

Jo Aleh and Molly Meech were picked in the 49er FX class ahead of Alex Maloney and Olivia Hobbs, while George Gautrey edged Tom Saunders to selection in the ILCA 7 (Laser) courtesy of his silver medal at the Princess Sofia.

Jo Aleh and Molly Meech will compete in the 49er FX. Photo / Sailing Energy

Jo Aleh and Molly Meech will compete in the 49er FX. Photo / Sailing Energy

Nacra 17 combination Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson, who finished third at the Lanzarote International Regatta in February and managed a top-10 finish in Hyères, have also been selected as have windfoilers Josh Armit and Veerle ten Have.

Ten Have won bronze in Palma, with Armit finishing fourth in the men's competition at the same event before securing a seventh place at the European championships in Greece earlier this month.

The iQFOIL will make its Olympic debut in Paris, replacing windsurfing.

New Zealand's leading women's kitefoiler Justina Kitchen will also compete in Marseille, while Lukas Walton-Keim has recovered from a knee injury to book his spot in the men's event.

New Zealand will also have an ILCA 6 competing at the test event, despite not meeting the selection criteria. This is a unique selection to help support and develop the class as they continue their efforts to qualify for 2024.

Olivia Christie will compete in the boat, formerly called the Laser Radial, in Marseille.

Another class debuting in Paris next year is the 470 mixed, with the test event not considered an immediate priority for our NZL crews given the very new combinations, time in the boat, and regatta results. 

"Congratulations to those who have been selected. The test event provides an invaluable opportunity for our sailors to race at the Olympic venue against an Olympic-sized fleet and to understand the conditions they will encounter in 2024," Stewart said.

"There's a long way to go before the sailing team is finalised for the Paris Games, with strict performance criteria which must still be met."


Veerle ten Have won bronze at the Princess Sofia Regatta. Photo / Sailing Energy

Other sailors who have not been selected to compete at the test event but who remain in contention for Olympic success, will also be in attendance in Marseille, Stewart added.

The Olympic test event is scheduled for July 9 to 16 and will be followed by the sailing world championships in The Hague in August.

New Zealand team to compete at the Olympic test event in Marseille, France (July 9-16):

Nacra 17 (mixed): Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson 
49er: Isaac McHardie and Will McKenzie
49er FX: Jo Aleh and Molly Meech
iQFOIL (men): Josh Armit
iQFOIL (women): Veerle ten Have 
Formula kite (men): Lukas Walton-Keim 
Formula kite (women): Justina Kitchen
ILCA 7: George Gautrey
ILCA 6: Olivia Christie