Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Rio Olympics 2016: Gold guaranteed for Peter Burling and Blair Tuke

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke have capped off a dominant four years in the 49er class, sewing up the gold medal with a race to spare.

The Kiwi pair will head into Friday's medal race with gold already in the bag after extending their lead out to an unassailable 34 points on the final day of fleet racing.

The four-time world champions have been ruthlessly consistent in this regatta, with their worst finish of the 12 races being seventh, to ensure their rivals never really got a look-in.

German crew of Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel are in silver medal position heading in to the final race, with Australians Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen - the defending Olympic champions back in third.

The 49er fleet now have a rest day tomorrow before Friday's medal race, where all Burling and Tuke have to do is show up on the course to claim the gold.

Peter Burling talks to Radio Sport's Rikki Swannell

Burling and Tuke capped off a brilliant day on the water for Kiwi crews, with Sam Meech claiming New Zealand's first official sailing medal of the Rio Games when he took out bronze in the Laser class.

Meech's sister Molly, who is partnered with Alex Maloney in the 49er FX class, is a chance to join him on the podium. The Kiwi pair are sitting in fourth place heading into Friday's medal race, just one point off the top three sailors, who are remarkably all level on 46 points.

With the fifth-place French crew nearly 30 points back, it sets up a stunning winner-takes-all finale to the class, which is appearing on the Olympic sailing programme for the first time in Rio.

New Zealand's Blair Tuke, right, and Peter Burling compete in the 49er regatta. Photo / AP

The women's 470 crew Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie will be in the medal hunt tomorrow following a remarkable recovery today.

The defending Olympic champions were languishing back in seventh heading into the final day of qualifiying races after picking up two disqualifications earlier in the regatta. But two wins and a fourth from today's races saw them move into silver medal position before the medal race.

Ranked in third position heading into the doubles points medal race, Meech needed to finish inside the top five to guarantee himself a medal.

The young Kiwi delivered, finishing fourth in a dramatic medal race to hold off some top international competition chasing him down and become the first New Zealander to win a medal in the highly competitive Laser class. The Laser class is the biggest fleet at the Olympics, with 46 sailors competing.

Australian Tom Burton, who was ranked in the silver medal position, claimed the gold after a masterful tactical performance, making up the 10-points gap on Croatia's Tonci Stipanovic, who had to settle for silver.

With plenty of jockeying for position in the fleet, Meech showed impressive composure to ensure he maintained his podium spot.

Meech is well accustomed to sailing under pressure. He faced intense competition to earn selection in the New Zealand team for Rio, with the 26-year-old locked in a head-to-head battle with his close friend Andy Maloney for just one spot.

Gemma Jones and Jason Saunders then gave themselves every chance of joining Meech in the realm of Olympic medallist in their Nacra 17 medal race.

In fifth spot heading into the deciding race, the Kiwi crew took out the race following a brilliant effort off the startline. But the pair's rivals for the bronze medal, the Australian and Austrian crews, also had strong races, leaving Jones and Saunders just outside the medals.

Argentina's Santiago Lange and Cecilia Carranza Saroli took out the gold despite picking up two penalties in the final race.

Josh Junior finished seventh overall in the Finn class, after a fourth-place finish in his medal race. Great Britain's Giles Scott already had the gold medal locked down heading into the decider with a lead of more than 30 points on the rest of the fleet.

- NZ Herald

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