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49er, FX and Nacra 17 Worlds: Six NZ crews on start-line in Nova Scotia

by Michael Brown / Yachting NZ 30 Aug 16:50 PDT
Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson (NZL), Nacra 17 - Tokyo2020 - Day 8- August 1, 2021 - Enoshima, Japan © Richard Gladwell - Sail-World.com / Photosport

Nacra 17 sailors, Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson, are getting used to curveballs been thrown at them at inopportune times in their sailing partnership.

Last year Dawson suffered a broken leg in a training accident only five weeks before the Tokyo Olympics - she recovered in time for the pair to finish 12th - and this time around it was Wilkinson's turn for misfortune when he came down with Covid on the eve of this week's Nacra 17 world championships in Canada.

He took himself out of circulation, isolating in a caravan, and had to watch from a distance as their rivals went through their final preparations on Margaret Bay in Nova Scotia.

"We had been saying all season, because Erica and I were fortunate to have not had Covid until we got here, that it would probably hit at the worst time," Wilkinson said. "Luckily it wasn’t quite the worst time. I was fortunate that it didn’t affect me too badly.

"We have had a bit of adversity but we are both healthy now, the boat is good, the team is good and we are ready to roll."

Wilkinson and Dawson are among six New Zealand combinations who will line up at the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 world championships when racing gets under way on Thursday morning (NZ time).

They were seventh at the last world champs in 2020 but a lot of water has passed over their foils since then.

Wilkinson and Dawson have become one of the form teams in the Nacra fleet in 2022, finishing sixth in Palma, fifth in Hyeres, fourth in Kiel and then second at last month's European championships in Denmark - their first medal at an international event.

It's a byproduct of their hard work as a team, which includes new coach and former World Sailor of the Year Anton Paz, the confidence they are now sailing with and the speed with which they have adjusted to the new rudder rake system on the boats which allows them to foil upwind in more than nine knots.

"I think the key is we have gelled well as a team and also gelled really well with Anton," Wilkinson said. "We are also really enjoying the change to the rudder differential on the boat. It has really suited our way of sailing.

"We have done some big hours, worked really hard. We have some good pace and had some good racing so, as long as we sail well, we should be competitive."

The same can be said for Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn as well as Isaac McHardie and William McKenzie in the 49er. Both crews have the potential to finish on the podium at their pinnacle event of the year and have showed good speed in practice racing.

There's been a period of transition in the 49erFX with two new Kiwi combinations in 2022 - Jo Aleh teamed up with Molly Meech, and Alex Maloney partnered with Olivia Hobbs - and both crews will be looking to finish the year strongly with the Paris Olympics less than two years away.

"I think everyone is really excited," Wilkinson said of the wider New Zealand squad. "It’s the world champs. After doing a lot of events in the year, it can feel like another regatta but it definitely doesn’t. There’s a lot of hype. Everyone is ready to go."

New Zealand sailors competing at the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 world championships in Canada:

  • 49er: Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn; Isaac McHardie and William McKenzie; Sam Bacon and Henry Gautrey
  • 49erFX: Jo Aleh and Molly Meech; Alex Maloney and Olivia Hobbs
  • Nacra 17: Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson

Website 49er.org/event/2022-world-championship

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