Rio Olympics 2016: Rule changes key to keeping Kiwi crewmates together

New Zealand's Gemma Jones, left, and Jason Saunders compete during the Nacra 17. Photo / AP
New Zealand's Gemma Jones, left, and Jason Saunders compete during the Nacra 17. Photo / AP

Proposed changes to the Nacra 17 class could be the key to keeping rising Kiwi crewmates Jason Saunders and Gemma Jones together.

The surprise packages of flourishing New Zealand sailing campaign at the Rio Olympics, Saunders and Jones were a swirl of emotions after coming painfully close to claiming a medal.

The pair did everything they could by winning the medal race on Tuesday but the finishing order of other boats meant they came fourth, just three points outside bronze.

Disappointment at coming so close was combined with delight at winning the final race and also learning news that Saunders' long-time Tauranga friends had won medals - Sam Meech in the Laser class and Peter Burling in the 49er, alongside Blair Tuke.

"We spent 10 minutes on the boat saying 'we have to calm down here'," Saunders said.

A Nacra 17 campaign at the Tokyo Olympics may depend on how the governing body ISAF evolves the class.

There is speculation it will be modified, possibly adding foils so the boats spectacularly rise out of the water in the manner of the large catamarans used for America's Cup racing.

"That's pretty exciting because it's the way sailing's going right now," Saunders said. "You just look at the America's Cup, even some of the other circuits going around at the moment. It would be awesome if they could pull it off but they need to do it the right way as well. It needs to be cost-effective."

Saunders, 25, would love to follow Burling and Tuke into America's Cup racing but won't make any decision on his future until later this year.

He wants to enjoy the remainder of his second Olympics, along with Jones, who he says was outstanding on debut.

At 22, she was the youngest sailor and also the only female helm of any of the 10 boats.
Saunders was happy to take orders in the crew role.

"The first Olympics can be overwhelming for some people but Gemma just took it all on. It hasn't been easy, the last four years. She was amazing."

-NZN

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