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49erFX: Top Olympic crew call it a day

by 15 Dec 2021 01:53 PST 15 December 2021
Nathan Handley, Alex Maloney and Molly Meech (NZL) - 49er FX - Medal Race - Sailing World Cup Enoshima, August 2018 © Jesus Renedo / Sailing Energy / World Sailing

2016 Olympic silver medalists in the 49erFX class, Molly Meech and Alex Maloney, have announced via social media that " it's is time for a new chapter".

The two became synonymous with the 49erFX, having been a key part of the team which worked with Mackay Boats to develop the class prototype, which was then selected after a selection trial process, by World Sailing, as the equipment for the new Womens Two Person skiff event, first sailed at the 2016 Olympics.

They won the inaugural World Championship for the class in 2013 in Marseille, and placed third in the 2017 Worlds in Matosinhos, Portugual.

Maloney and Meech will always be remembered for the 49erFX Medal race in the Rio Olympics, when the three medals were going to be determined by the placings in that race.

What was probably not seen on the gaze of the TV camera ahead of the start of the Women's 49erFX Medal race, was the sight of the Brazilian crew of Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze talking for a long time with five times Olympic medallist Torben Grael as they all studied the nuances of the Guanabara Bay race course, and devised a plan for the race.

That 49erFX Medal Race was the only one where the Medals would be decided by the actual finishing order, with four boats all covered by a single point. Before the race, there was clearly some very serious application of brainpower within the Brazilian team. No-one should have known the course and options better than the Graels. So it was real surprise to see the New Zealanders lead the second generation of the Grael sailing dynasty for two and a half laps of the three lap course – only losing the lead in a wind shift at the top of the course.

In any other environment, it is a fair bet that the Kiwis would have won, and their performance must be seen in that light.

Like several Kiwi crews, Maloney and Meech never really got into gear in the delayed Tokyo2020. The COVID pandemic caused the postponement and then cancellation of the vital pre-Olympic regatta. They got away to a bad first day with a capsize in the first race and premature start by a couple of seconds in the second - and they were off to a tough start, which is often series.

Their decision to head in a new direction, comes at a time when eight Tokyo2020 Olympians on the crack British team have made a similar decision.

Alex and Molly announced their decision on social media:

"After a period of reflection, we have decided it’s now time for a new chapter.

"It’s been such a cool journey with many highs, lows, successes and challenges.

"We will look back on the last 10 years sailing together with good memories and pride about how we operated as a team. Growing up together through the beginning of our 20’s and then onto a second campaign, we have learnt so much and have formed a friendship for life!

"We’d like to thank everyone who has been a part of our two campaigns. A special mention to our coach’s, Nathan Handley and Jim Maloney, and to the many expert coach’s who shared gems of knowledge along the way.

"A big thank you to Yachting New Zealand and High Performance Sport NZ for their support and funding to enable us to compete at the highest level. Additionally, we would like to thank our personal sponsors who we feel hugely appreciative to have shared the journey. We enjoyed getting to know all their teams. This includes the Red Bull NZ family, Big Chill Distribution, Harken, Zhik, Fine Line and Oakley. The relationships formed with all of you are truly valued.

"Also, as we all know, it does take a community. Thank you to our family, friends and the sailing community, for all of the kindness and encouragement right from the very beginning. This includes our teammates on the NZL Sailing team from both cycles. It was fun sharing the journey with you, learning from each other and enjoying a lot of banter along the way.

"We are both still deciding what’s next and will look forward to updating you with future plans. We hope you are all enjoying the beginning of a Kiwi summer and look forward to catching up with some of you on the water!"

A massive thank you to you all,

Molly & Alex.

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