Tauranga's Sam Meech won his first World Cup regatta yesterday in Gamagori and wants to be in a position where he's fighting for the title on a regular basis.
It was a big result for the 26-year-old - his previous best at a World Cup regatta was silver - and he held off the challenge from Laser world champion Pavlos Kontides. Meech went into the top-10 medal race with a narrow three-point advantage over the Cypriot so had little room for error.
It turned the medal race into a match race at times, as Meech kept a close eye on his nearest rival safe in the knowledge the worst he could do was finish second overall.
The pair battled for the upper hand off the start line but Meech was surprised when they emerged near the front.
"I was hoping [Kontides and I] would be at the back but we popped out at the front so that made it a lot more difficult," he said. "Luckily I was just able to keep sneaking ahead. It was a big relief to get round the final mark."
Olympic champion Tom Burton (Australia) won the final race, climbing into third overall, but Meech did enough to claim gold by finishing fourth. Kontides was seventh.
The Olympic bronze medallist sailed a consistent regatta, regularly finishing inside the top 10 in the 50-strong fleet, and he also collected three race wins over the nine races.
"There were a couple of races during the week when there were some quite big decisions to be made and one in particular that turned out to be the right call," Meech said. "After the black flag [disqualification for being over the start line] the thought went through my mind that I had stuffed the regatta but I bounced back well during the week.
"I want to be in this position going into the medal race where I'm always competing for the medal. Guys like Tom Burton and [two-time world champion] Nick Thompson are always there fighting for the medal on the last day. I've felt that, up until now, I'm just off the back of that."
Most the New Zealand boats at Gamagori competed strongly.
Tom Saunders and Andrew McKenzie were both in the top 10 of the Laser fleet, in eighth and ninth respectively; Isaac McHardie and William McKenize (fifth), Josh Porebski and Trent Rippey (sixth) and Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn (seventh) were well placed in the 49er; and Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Willcox were fifth in the men's 470. Susannah Pyatt was 33rd in the Laser Radial.
The approaching typhoon meant racing was cancelled on the final day of the men's 470, denying Snow-Hansen and Willcox the chance to push for a medal - they finished only one point off third.
Attention now switches to 300km up the coast to Enoshima, host venue for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, for the Enoshima Olympic Week.