New Zealand’s Josh Junior will race for gold at the Sailing World Championships tomorrow morning but he almost had it in his grasp today before the Finn fleet were quite literally blown upside down.
The 28-year-old was leading overall at the start of the day’s final race, and was comfortable in sixth at the top mark for the final time, but a massive storm blew into the course, causing seven of the top nine boats to capsize, including Junior.
The New Zealander fought back to finish 15th in the race to leave him third overall.
He’s now eight points behind Sweden’s Max Salminen, which is not an insurmountable margin in a tomorrow’s double-points medal race.
Junior has now made an official protest to have the race thrown out, given the wind strength was nearly double the racing limit, but he’s confident he can push for gold despite today’s setback.
“It has completely influenced the outcome of the regatta but I’m still in the mix to win and that’s what I want to do, so tomorrow is about building on that,” he said. “I have every opportunity to try to do that.
“When the leaders came around the top mark, we just had so much breeze as we bore away that things were breaking and everyone was capsizing. The guys who came around a little bit later had a little less breeze and managed to get downwind and that turned the whole fleet inside out. I’m a little bit gutted but I’m still in the hunt. I had a good first race. I’ll keep chipping away,” Junior said.
If Junior’s protest is upheld, he’ll be restored to first place overall.
Fellow New Zealander Andy Maloney is ninth and will also feature in the top-ten medal race, and the pair have ensured New Zealand has earned a spot in the Finn class at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Sam Meech has slipped a place to fourth in the Laser with one race tomorrow and the medal race on Saturday.
He’s also likely to qualify a spot for New Zealand in the Laser fleet in Tokyo.
“[A 13th] would be OK but, unfortunately, the people who I need to be in front of did really well in the race,” Meech said. “If I didn’t have a bad race yesterday, I would be more than happy with that.
“It’s not quite where I wanted to be. We still have one more race tomorrow so there are a lot of points on the line. I will try to get myself back into a good position before the medal race,” Meech said.
Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn remain second in the 49er with their race abandoned today.
Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Willcox missed out on a place in the men’s 470 medal race but they’ve still qualifed the boat for the Tokyo Olympics.
Alex Maloney and Molly Meech still haven’t hit their groove and are eighth in the 49erFX but virtually all teams in the top 10 have a big score on their tally so there’s still plenty on the line with three more races scheduled tomorrow before their medal race.