The daunting prospect of confronting Australia’s powerful Laser class team at the site of the 2000 Olympic regatta has failed to spook New Zealand ace Sam Meech, who will be seeking retribution over his Australian nemesis Tom Burton when Sail Sydney International starts on Monday.
Meech - who claimed a bronze medal at the Rio Olympic Games behind gold medallist Burton and Croatia’s silver medallist Tonci Stipanovic - heads a keen trio of Kiwi Laser sailors out to impress on the waters off Woollahra Sailing Club, which is hosting the event.
While Meech keeps an eye on countrymen Tom Saunders and Andrew McKenzie, he will also be looking for any cracks in Burton’s renowned consistency.
“It’s always nice to try and get one over Tom, but it’s really not easy to do as he has been at the top of the game for a long time now and is super consistent,” Meech said.
“The Aussie Laser team are one of the best in the world so the fleet will be really strong. This is also where they train all year so it’s awesome to come and race them on their home turf.
“I’ve had a bit of time off and this year was a little lighter than the last few years for Laser sailing, so I wouldn’t say I’m very well prepared, but this is an awesome chance to come get some great conditions, quality racing and get a head start for next year. It’s always nice to do well so like everyone else I’ll be racing hard but it’s also a great regatta to learn as we can get just about every condition possible.”
The strong New Zealand representation, which includes Rio silver medallists in the 49erFX, Alex Maloney and Molly Meech - Sam’s sister - are part of a 12-nation fleet that has descended on Sydney for the follow-up event to Sail Melbourne International and prelude to the Oceanbridge NZL Sailing Regatta, which completes the Tasman Series. Burton won at Sail Melbourne narrowly from fellow Australian Sailing Team colleague Matt Wearn.
Yachting New Zealand high performance manager Ian Stewart told the national team’s website that the standard of competition will be high at Sail Sydney and he expected Kiwi sailors to perform well across the board.
“There will be some decent competition assembled in Sydney so it’s a pretty purposeful event,” Stewart said. “We want to see our sailors all pushing at the front of the fleets and finish the year off strongly.”
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