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Skiff sailing duo stay in sync ahead of 49erFX Worlds

by Suzanne McFadden, 21 Jul 2018 07:16 PDT 22 July 2018
Alex Maloney and Molly Meech (NZL) 4 - Start of the Medal Race 49erFX - Rio Olympic Regatta © Richard Gladwell

Above a millpond ocean, without a zephyr of a breeze, Alex Maloney and Molly Meech sit at a picnic table at Milford Beach and look out, wistfully, at the perfect Auckland winter’s day. This is not what they were expecting of the Hauraki Gulf in the middle of July.

The Olympic silver medallists wanted to snatch a few days’ sailing during their whistle-stop trip home, before returning to Europe for the world championships in Aarhus, Denmark, in just over a weeks' time.

On this morning, Auckland’s fickle weather gods aren’t playing ball.

They may have been sailing together in a 49erFX for the past six years, but Maloney and Meech still need to stay in sync on the water, even when they’re home for a much-needed break.

“Our boat is all about teamwork and balance, making sure you’re standing in the right place,” Meech says of the demanding skiff they sail. “We wanted a few days on the water to get back into the rhythm.”

Intriguingly, their lives have followed a similar rhythm - even long before they sailed together.

They each grew up on their families’ yachts cruising the Pacific; neither was very keen on sailing dinghies as a kid. Their paths intersected when their older brothers began chasing their Olympic dreams. Then they became friends, and finally an exceptional team on the water.

Whether they'd admit it or not, Meech and Maloney must go into these sailing world championships as favourites, ready to repeat the world title they won back in 2013.

They’ve just won two key regattas on the Olympic classes circuit – the World Cup in Hyères, France, and Kiel Week, the largest sailing regatta on the globe, in Germany.

And they’ll have a distinct advantage over their fellow medallists from the 2016 Rio Olympics, whose crews have been disrupted by round-the-world escapades.

Brazilian gold medallist Martine Grael sailed in the Volvo Ocean Race on Akzo Nobel, while bronze medallist Jena Mai Hansen of Denmark was on board Vestas 11th Hour Racing.

Although the punishing circumnavigation finished only a month ago, both women will be back in skiffs in Aarhus, getting their campaigns on track for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Such is the camaraderie in the 49erFX elite fleet, that Meech and Maloney will be happy to see their rivals return.

Their solidarity was no more obvious than at 1am on a February morning this year, when they were out on the Waitemata Harbour welcoming their 49er competitors at the end of a gruelling Hong Kong-to-Auckland leg.

Had the two Kiwis had different priorities, they could also have been on board those round-the-world boats, taking part in a ground-breaking race which encouraged mixed-gender crews.

For the full story

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