Sam Meech made a strong start to the Laser world championships in Split overnight, winning one of his two races to sit in third overall.

Extremely shifty conditions greeted the 147 competitors in Croatia, meaning big gains and losses could be made, so Meech was happy to emerge from the first day in a healthy position with a win and a fourth in his two races.

He sits on five points overall, behind Pavlos Kontides of Cyprus and France's Jean-Baptiste Bernaz, with most of the expected contenders all in and around the top 20.

"It was a good first day for me," said Meech, who has struggled in the opening stages of regattas this year before recovering strongly. "It was really shifty and puffy. We had between five and 12 knots of wind and it was coming from all directions.

"I had pretty good starts in both races so I was lucky to come away with two good results but it wasn't easy, that's for sure. The forecast looks better for tomorrow and a little bit more breeze would really make life a lot easier."

Tom Saunders was the next best of the other Kiwis, notching a 15th and a third to sit in 18th overall, while George Gautrey (18th and 28th) was 66th and Andrew McKenzie (46th and fifth) was 74th.

McKenzie will expect to be a lot higher in the standings and he should be able to drop the 46th as one of his discards but it puts pressure on him for the rest of qualifying and he can't afford to make too many more mistakes.

Saunders was also happy to emerge from day one largely unscathed.

"It was a really long day on the water in tricky conditions," he said. "I got caught in race one but I was happy to end the day on a good note [with a third]. It's still early days.

"Qualifying is all about getting through unscathed and then the regatta really starts in gold fleet. It could have been better but could have been a lot worse today."

The competitors have been split into three fleets for the first three days of qualifying before they're put into gold, silver and bronze fleets. Two more races are scheduled tonight.

Results and standings after the first day of the Laser world championships in Split, Croatia, overnight (NZ time):

1st: Pavlos Kontides (CYP) 1 1 - 2 points

2nd: Jean-Baptiste Bernaz (FRA) 2 2 - 4 pts

3rd: Sam Meech (NZL) 1 4 - 5 pts

18th: Tom Saunders (NZL) 15 3 - 18 pts

66th: George Gautrey (NZL) 18 28 - 46 pts

74th: Andrew McKenzie (NZL) 46 5 - 51 pts

- This story has been automatically published using a media release from Yachting New Zealand