The lack of high-level racing over the last two years was a significant factor in the fortunes of two Kiwis at the ILCA 6 (Laser Radial) world championships which finished up in Oman overnight (NZ time).
Annabelle Rennie-Younger and Olivia Christie both had disappointing regattas in Oman, finishing 54th and 57th respectively in a fleet of 63 boats.
Belgium's Emma Plasschaert picked up her second world title, edging Poland's Agata Barwinska on countback on a dramatic final day that saw Olympic champion Anne-Marie Rindom (Denmark) miss out on the medals after starting the day on top.
The world championships was the first international regatta for Rennie-Younger and Christie since the 2020 world championships in Australia last February. It was a bonus for them to attend, given they secured MIQ spots relatively close to the start of the regatta.
The pair showed glimpses of their potential at times, with Rennie-Younger rounding the top mark in the top 10 and both also showed some good speed.
"They've been off the scene for more than 18 months and that lack of hard racing showed," Yachting New Zealand new women's sailing manager and Laser Radial coach Jenny Armstrong said. "The conditions also didn't help, with every day under 10 knots so that, and the fact they also raced in one fleet, meant it was about as hard as it could have been for them.
"It was always going to be a hard ask to front at a world championships after such a long time in isolation in New Zealand but it was a valuable opportunity to re-engage with the international fleet. Expectations were realistic and the small fleet proved to be super-competitive.
"We will look to do a really good debrief when they get into MIQ and make a plan to address some of the areas they need to work on. What is clear from the results is that they need to do more top-level racing and training but it was a good learning opportunity for them and there are lots of areas to work on over the New Zealand summer."
Armstrong plans for the women's ILCA 6 squad, which also includes promising youngster Greta Pilkington, to train more frequently with this country's elite youth sailors and she's also looking to formalise arrangements for the squad to train in Europe and Australia next year.
The Government have already signalled an easing of MIQ requirements in 2022, which should open the way for more regular contact with the international fleets in all classes.
Christie admitted the world championships had been frustrating but was also encouraged by some of the progress she made throughout the regatta.
"It was a really tough regatta for us," Christie said. "We lacked big-fleet racing experience and the light winds and tight fleets meant bad starts and mistakes were super-costly.
"It didn't necessarily show in the results but I made big improvements in some areas, particularly starting. I'm also a lot more confident in my downwind speed and strategy now, which has previously been a weakness. A massive focus now will be on starting and clear air in the light winds, and working on gaining places all around the course."
The 2022 Laser national championships will be held at the Queen Charlotte Yacht Club in Picton next month and the next world championships are scheduled for China in September 2022, which Armstrong said will be the next major measuring stick.
Results and standings after the ILCA 6 (Laser Radial) world championships in Oman:
Women's ILCA 6 (63 boats)
1st: Emma Plasschaert (BEL) (29) 12 3 1 10 11 (25) 20 4 7 3 - 71 points
2nd: Agata Barwinska (POL) (37) 1 13 4 3 10 5 17 6 (21) 12 - 71 pts
3rd: Viktorija Andrulyte (LTU) 1 17 (25) 2 2 20 (28) 11 5 4 11 - 73 pts
54th: Annabelle Rennie-Younger (NZL) 47 (53) 46 26 (56) 46 49 22 47 44 34 - 361 pts
57th: Olivia Christie (NZL) 54 (58) 56 (64 BFD) 46 39 53 49 34 43 24 - 398 pts
- Pic: Olivia Christie in action at the ILCA 6 world championships. Photo: Lloyd Images.