Sailing: Two gold medals for Kiwi sailors

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New Zealand has won gold in both men's single-handed events at Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofia IBEROSTAR Regatta with Andy Maloney winning in the Laser and Josh Junior taking out the Finn class.

Delivering a brilliant performance for the duration of the six-day regatta Andy Maloney held a share of the lead after day one, stepped clear ahead on the leader-board after day two, never relinquished his lead and went on to extend an almost unassailable lead ahead of today's Laser medal race.

"I am happy to seal the deal in today's Medal Race and win the 2016 Trofeo Princesa Sofía Regatta," says Maloney. "I was looking to sail consistently this week which I did. I was trying to start better and try and sail risk free."

Going into today only Ton?i Stipanovi? of Croatia was in a position to challenge Maloney for the gold medal, and the kiwi ensured that wasn't going to happen. Finishing last in the medal race and collecting 20 points along the way Maloney's focus in today's finale was to secure the gold medal.

"Today I wanted to treat it like the Olympics. Only Tonci could beat me and so I had to cover him and so I executed that strategy well."

Maloney secured the victory competing against 151 other entrants competing in Palma in the light-weight dinghy class. Robert Schedit, (BRA) - multiple world champion in the Laser, and the Star class - won today's medal race and secured the silver medal in Palma. Stipanovic had to settle for bronze.

This is 25 year-old Andy Maloney's first victory at a major European Championship in three years; he won this same event in May 2013. Last year Maloney medalled at Sailing World Cup Hyeres Regatta, winning silver, and Hyeres will be the next stop for the kiwi now, who is gunning for selection to the New Zealand Olympic Team.

"This is good for me because it is a good warm up for Hyeres which is big for me because that is a selection regatta," says Maloney.

Every qualified nation can send just one representative in each Olympic sailing event and Maloney isn't the only on form Laser sailor New Zealand has. Sam Meech won bronze at Sailing World Cup Miami in January this year, and has chosen to spend time in Rio training at the Olympic venue ahead of his first European regatta which will be Sailing World Cup Hyeres later this month.

"That [Hyeres] is the last big regatta. Sam (Meech) and I are really close at the moment and hopefully one of us gets on the podium. Whoever beats the other there will probably get the nod for Rio. The selectors do like to see Kiwis winning medals though before they decide."
Finn

With gold in the bag before starting today's Finn medal race 26 year-old Josh Junior romped away with victory in Palma closing the regatta 27 points ahead of his nearest rival.

World Champion, Giles Scott from Great Britain, took the silver medal and Tapio Nirkko (FIN) took bronze. Junior's victory ends Scott's three-year run of consecutive regatta wins.

Despite only needing to show up, Junior placed 5th in today's top ten medal race sailed in 8-12 knots of breeze.

He is delighted; "All I needed to do today was to finish the race so I am ecstatic to have won the regatta, really happy."

Eight out of the ten sailors on the Finn medal race start-line today have already been selected to represent their nation at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Junior being one of the two still vying for tightly contested selection decisions.

Junior continued, "I am lucky enough to have John Cutler as my coach and we have been working hard all summer on technique and going faster and consistency, and I think we have achieved that and now we need to keep building until Hyeres, and hopefully the Olympic Games."

"It's my first ever win in Europe. It feels great and I want to do it again. It feels awesome."

He continued, "It's been a glamour week and we have completed every race. Most races have been pretty challenging, with power sailing in 15 knots of breeze. We've had strong conditions and some people have been very fast. Giles has proven to be fast again, so to come out on top is great."

"This is probably the most competitive event leading into the Olympics, so this is a great one to win. I am very pleased to have chipped away with a lot of top five places and won the regatta with a day to go."

When speaking about his week Giles Scott, who suffered gear damage in race ten, acknowledged Junior's victory; "This week has gone really well apart from the day I got a 45th and 11th and ultimately, what really killed me was the breakage. But that being said, if Josh had a breakage, he'd have picked up 14th and not 45th, so in that regard you have to take your hat off to Josh."

Both Josh Junior and Andy Maloney now turn their focus to the next European event on the calendar - Sailing World Cup Hyeres, on between 22-26 April in France.

Before that New Zealand's Laser Radial campaigners including Susannah Pyatt and Sara Winther, who finished 30th and 32nd respectively at this regatta, go to compete at the 2016 Laser Radial World Championships in Mexico. The woman's single-handed Olympic class world title deciding regatta runs from 14-20 April in Nuevo Vallarta.

- NZ Herald

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