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Yachting NZ: Saunders hits the front at Laser world championships

by Michael Brown/Yachting NZ 9 Nov 2021 12:34 PST 10 November 2021
Tom Saunders (NZL) leads the 2021 Laser Worlds in Barcelona, Spain. © ILCA

Tom Saunders will head into an unfamiliar position tomorrow but one he's excited about - leading going into the final day of the Laser world championships in Barcelona.

The 29-year-old had a brilliant fifth day at these world championships, banking a first, fourth and second in the three gold fleet races overnight, to hold a handy 14-point lead over Ireland's Finn Lynch. Olympic silver medallist Tonci Stipanovic (Croatia) is another 28 points behind in third.

George Gautrey continued his climb up the leaderboard overnight, jumping up to 18th overall, and will look to finish his first international regatta in nearly two years on a high.

Three races are scheduled for tonight (NZ time), when a strong onshore breeze and big swells are forecast, which will come as welcome relief for many who have struggled with a week of mostly light winds and long delays.

There are still plenty of points on offer, meaning big moves up and down the leaderboard are still possible, but giving Saunders some comfort is the fact a second drop for the regatta will come into play after the second race tonight and 10th race overall.

"It was a great day for me today," Saunders said. [Stand-in coach] Mike [Bullot] and I had a great game plan. We managed to get the critical decisions right all day, which set me up for some low scores. It's always a bonus getting a race win. That feeling will never get old.

"I feel like I'm sailing with a lot of freedom. It's a nice mindset to have and something Mike and I have worked hard on.

"I'm pretty excited going into tomorrow. It's a position I've never been in before. It's also a lot of fun. I will try to get some sleep, keep my presence and hope my legs turn up tomorrow."

Saunders has been a regular on the Laser circuit for some time, and achieved some notable results over the last decade.

He's twice finished in the top 10 at the world championships, has multiple podium finishes at World Cup events and is a former youth sailing world champion. He brought some form into this event, having finished sixth at last month's Laser European championships in Bulgaria, and seems to have latched onto a good formula all week considering he's had only one result outside the top seven.

Gautrey has been chasing consistency all week and was on course for a good first day of gold fleet racing with a 32nd and seventh before finishing 64th in the last race of the day in a dying breeze.

"It could have been a good day but the last race was tough," he said. "We finished in no wind and four knots of current, which was a shame. If that had been a good race, I would have had a good day.

"Obviously Tom is sailing well, which is good to see. Hopefully there's some big breeze tomorrow and we can get some good racing in."

Results and standings after day 5 of the Laser world championships in Barcelona:

(135 boats)

1st: Tom Saunders (NZL) 3 4 7 2 (37) 1 4 2 - 23 points 2nd: Finn Lynch (IRE) 3 6 8 10 (16) 7 2 1 - 37 pts 3rd: Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) 11 3 6 2 11 8 24 (35) - 65 pts

18th: George Gautrey (NZL) 23 8 15 24 6 32 7 (64) - 115 pts

Full results click here

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