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Sail-World NZ - April 29 - Kiwis at Hyères..Live Ocean Racing fires up ...International news

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World.com/nz 29 Apr 06:17 PDT 30 April 2022
Veerle ten Have (NZL) - iQFoil - Day 4 - NZL Sailing Team - Semaine Olympique Française de Hyères - April 2022 © Sailing Energy/FFVoile

Welcome to Sail-World.com's New Zealand e-magazine for April 29, 2022.

This editorial started as a look at the latest initiative by Live Ocean - Peter Burling and Blair Tuke's ocean conservation foundation. But a couple of weeks of Covid intervened, and that story has moved on. So we start again.

In mid-April, Pete and Blair announced the formation of a racing team - Live Ocean Racing.

Their first foray is into the ETF26 circuit with a crew comprising some of the top sailors in New Zealand - Jo Aleh, Molly Meech, Alex Maloney, Erica Dawson, and Liv Mackay. 2016 Olympian Jason Saunders is the coach.

The ETF26 is a lightweight foiling catamaran designed by Guillaume Verdier, the leading high-performance yacht designer, from a concept by top French short-handed sailor Jean-Pierre (JP) Dick. ETF stands for Easy To Fly. The all-carbon boat weighs just 350kgs and can be launched off a beach.

We have several stories on the team in this edition. In their first event - at Spi Ouest - part of the five regatta ETF26 Grand Prix circuit, they placed fifth in an eight boat fleet. Skippered by Liv Mackay, the Live Ocean Racing team scored five podium places in 14 races - improving as the series progressed and the breeze freshened.

It was a promising first regatta by an all-female crew competing in an open or merit-based competition. We chatted to Live Ocean co-founder Blair Tuke after the event.

It is hard to see that this group will not become Emirates Team New Zealand's squad for the 2024 Women's America's Cup. There are also opportunities for this squad in SailGP - depending on that circuit's direction.

Medium to long term, this squad will span the ETF26, the F50, the AC40 and potentially the AC75 foiling classes. What other program offers opportunities like that?

Looking at the bigger picture, after the Spi Ouest result, Tuke says that the Women's SailGP program has already started and is expected to grow. "If there were a parallel women's league or similar in SailGP, then this group would be at the core of that from the NZ SailGP side."

"We need to very much widen this group - it is only just a start," he added.

"Live Ocean Racing will work with Yachting New Zealand, the New ZealandSailGP team, Emirates Team New Zealand and others to help accelerate the pathway for women into professional sailing."

"The women in the Live Ocean Racing team are among the best in New Zealand, and it will be exciting to see them hopefully grow into opportunities in SailGP and the America's Cup."

Several members of the Live Ocean Racing team are also running Olympic campaigns. Due to an event clash with French Olympic Week/Semaine Olympique Française de Hyères, where the NZL Sailing Team is competing, two of the Live Ocean Racing crew will change this weekend.

The Live Ocean ETF26 will be sailed with three crew for the second round of the ETF26's being, which is being sailed as part of the Carnac Eurocat regatta in Brittany, NW France.

Coming aboard will be 49er exponents Marcus Hansen and Leo Takahashi. Liv Mackay will again skipper Live Ocean Racing. All three have SailGP/F50 experience.

The Carnac event will provide a valuable benchmark for the Live Ocean Racing team ahead of the return of the regular crew for the third event, the Raid Quiberon, a month later on June 2nd-5th at Quiberon in Brittany, also in the NW corner of France.

Hyères hitout

The Semaine Olympique Française de Hyères [SOF] is the first major regatta for the NZL Sailing team since the Covid outbreak just over two years ago in March 2020.

SOF is the first serious international outing in the 2024 Olympic classes for most countries , although some competed in the Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofia Mallorca in Palma. At SOF, New Zealand is represented in seven of the ten Paris2024 events. Missing are the Men's and Women's Kiteboard and the Mixed 470.

After the conclusion of the first day of racing, after being split into Gold and Silver fleets, the Kiwi results have a few good surprises. Those that are not so good are no cause for panic, just good learning experiences after a two-year hiatus from the international circuits.

The iQFoil (foiling windsurfer) performance is very encouraging. This class was only established in 2018 - after a lot of joint development between New Zealand and The Netherlands.

Aaron McIntosh, Olympic Bronze medalist and coach of the last three Gold Medalists in the Men's Windsurfer, played a key role - working between the two countries to promote the foiling windsurfers or windfoilers. Not that he had to do a lot of encouragement. The concept and class sold themselves, resulting in a phenomenal takeup, leaving World Sailing with little option but to slot it in for Paris 2024.

Former RS:X sailor Veerle ten Have lies 4th overall in the 32 strong Womens iQFoil fleet - where French sailors lie in five of the top ten overall. Former Youth World Champion in the Laser, Josh Armit, moved from 15th to 11th overall - only 2 pts away from making the cut for the top ten and Medal Race. Armit had a very soft start to the Men's iQFoil but has dramatically improved over the last couple of days, and his results have been very encouraging in the back end of the regatta, which includes a day of Gold fleet racing.

George Gautrey has stepped up in the ILCA7 after current World Champion Tom Saunders scored three maximum point races out of his last four. Two were for premature starts, and a third was determined in the protest room after he was judged to have made contact with a Hungarian competitor. Saunders bounced back with a second in the last race overnight, but his goose would appear to be cooked.

Gautrey moved into 4th overall - 8pts behind Matt Wearn (AUS). The current Olympic Champion had a couple of poor races in the Final series - being judged to be an early starter in one race and then finishing 15th in the next. Gautrey was consistent while others fell around him and will carry NZ's hopes in the back-end of the regatta.

The 49er class has attracted 61 entries, with many new names at the top of the fleet. Logan Dunning-Beck and Oscar Gunn are the best performed, lying 10th overall - but picked up several double-digit places in the Qualifying Round, weighing them down on the event leaderboard. It has been a similar story for the other Kiwi crews in the regatta, with no one yet stepping up to stand in the massive shoes vacated by Peter Burling and Blair Tuke.

It is better news in the 49erFX. Two reformed crews had their first international hit-out after the longstanding Alex Maloney and Molly Meech combo decided to split following an indifferent performance at Tokyo2020. They are now sailing as part of two new crews. Now teamed up with Olivia Hobbs, Alex Maloney is 7th overall - 30 pts clear of Jo Aleh and Molly Meech, who are 12th. Nothing can be read into these placings other than Aleh is probably still finding her way as the helm in a challenging class. It is very much to NZ's benefit that two strong crews are now pushing each other in the FX and working together in Live Ocean Racing.

Double Olympic Gold medalists Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA) are lying 4th overall in the 49erFX, putting the event in some perspective. It's a top 49er FX fleet.

In the Nacra 17 - Mixed Multihull - Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson (NZL) are lying 5th overall - a big jump on their 12th place at Tokyo2020, in a classy fleet. Olympic champions Tita Ruggero and Caterina Banti (ITA) have won eight of the 12 races sailed to date.

Second is the Tokyo2020 Silver medalists John Gimson and Anna Burnet (GBR), who lie second overall. Rio 2016 Silver medalists Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmamin (AUS) are one up on their Tokyo2020 place - lying in 4th overall. In third are Sinem Kurtbay and Aksell Kestkinen (FIN), who were one place behind Wilkinson and Dawson at Enoshima last August.

2016 Olympic Gold medalist Santiago Lange - sailing with a new crew is 15th overall in the 31 boat fleet. Lange finished 7th at Tokyo2020 but is usually a fast finisher when the pressure comes on for the final day - but can he make the cut for the Medal Race in Hyères?

We're running daily reports and complete sets of daily images of the Kiwis competing in Hyères - so stay tuned for the final days and updates from the ETF26 regatta in Carnac.

Still waters run deep in the America's Cup. There's plenty going on. We'll be starting a new feature next week - so stay tuned.

Between newsletters, you can follow all the racing and developments in major and local events on www.sail-world.com/nz or by scrolling to the top of the site, select New Zealand, and get all the latest news and updates from the sailing world.

For all the latest news from NZ and around the world, see the top stories below.

Good sailing!

Richard Gladwell
NZ Editor

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