This year shapes up as an important one for the country’s top sailors as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics quickly comes into focus and today’s announcement of the NZL Sailing Team is a key part of that.
Three names have been added to the top-tier of Yachting New Zealand’s high performance programme – 49er combination Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn as well as Finn sailor Andy Maloney.
Dunning Beck and Gunn finished seventh at last year’s sailing world championships after having led for a few days earlier in the regatta and also picked up silver medals at two World Cup regattas.
Maloney was 10th at the world championships, which was an impressive achievement less than one year after switching from the Laser into the heavyweight dinghy (Finn), and he was also third at the World Cup Series final in Marseille. He has been working very closely with Josh Junior, who is also in the NZL Sailing Team and was fourth at the world championships.
Rounding out the team are Alex Maloney and Molly Meech (49erFX), Sam Meech (Laser), Gemma Jones and Jason Saunders (Nacra 17) and Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (49er), who last year announced their intention to defend the gold medal they won at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Selection into the NZL Sailing Team is determined by a top-10 result at the year's pinnacle event.
Liv Mackay and Micah Wilkinson (Nacra 17), Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Willcox (men's 470) and Tom Saunders (Laser), who were all in the 2018 NZL Sailing Team, are in this year's Olympic Development squad.
The majority of the team, as well as those in the Olympic Development and Aon Fast Track squads, will soon be heading to the Princess Sofia Regatta in Palma to start their European seasons. The focus will switch to Japan in July and August as the sailors train and compete at the Olympic venue.
New Zealand has already qualified spots in six of the 10 Olympic classes for the Tokyo Games.
“The buildup to the Olympics turns up a notch this year,” Yachting New Zealand high performance director Ian Stewart said. “The focus clearly goes on Japan, and August’s Olympic test event will be a good dress rehearsal. It’s an opportunity for us to better understand the Olympic venue but also build on the values of the NZL Sailing Team and how we are going to operate at the Olympic Games.
“We are an inclusive and open team and have exemplary people involved. We look forward to welcoming more members into the NZL Sailing Team on the back of some good results in 2019."
A feature of New Zealand sailing at the moment is the depth in a number of the Olympic classes, including the 49er which has four world-class combinations who have all been working closely together.
One of those is Dunning Beck and Gunn, who are newcomers to the NZL Sailing Team.
“It’s a big step up from the development ranks but now we have put ourselves in a place where we really have the opportunity to perform,” Dunning Beck said. “We are climbing our way to the top. It’s a big challenge but it’s also a really exciting opportunity.
“It will be one of the biggest years Oscar and I have had sailing together and we are really looking forward to it. We will have [Olympic] selection regattas and the [49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17] world championships here in New Zealand at the end of the year. All the Kiwis want to perform on home waters. We want to be the best Kiwis and, more than that, go out and win the worlds.”
2019 NZL Sailing Team
49er: Peter Burling and Blair Tuke; Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn
49erFX: Alex Maloney and Molly Meech
Laser: Sam Meech
Finn: Josh Junior; Andy Maloney
Nacra 17: Gemma Jones and Jason Saunders
- Pic (L to R): Andy Maloney, Molly Meech, Sam Meech, Gemma Jones, Blair Tuke, Alex Maloney, Jason Saunders, Oscar Gunn, Peter Burling, Logan Dunning Beck. (Absent: Josh Junior)