The samba beat booming around Flamengo Beach was enough to ease the initial pain of missing out on Olympic gold for Molly Meech and Alex Maloney.

Hours after a dramatic finish to their 49erFX medal race - the last of the sailing regatta - the Kiwi sailors were philosophical about collecting silver.

They finished just two seconds behind Brazilian pair Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze in a nail-biting finish as the Kiwis made ground under full sail in a final-leg drag race.

The Rio-based sailors clung on to win Brazil's first women's sailing gold.


It was greeted with an explosion of colour and noise which was still going strong as Maloney reflected on what the result meant.

"We were always out there to win but if anyone else was going to, it was so nice to see the Brazilians do it in their home town," she told NZ Newswire.

"It's a special moment for them and it's given the place a real vibe." It was also a historic moment for Meech and Maloney, who won New Zealand's 14th medal of the Games, a national record.

Meech's brother Sam contributed towards the haul with a Laser bronze this week.

"It's quite cool to think about it now," she said.

"We definitely we weren't thinking about it at the time but it's great that sailing has done so well here. Four medals tells you how much has gone into this from everyone."

The medal race capped a remarkably tight battle from start to finish in the class.

Maloney and Meech began the double-point race one point behind three boats tied for the lead - Brazil, Spain and Denmark.

The former world champions made a slick start and claimed the gold medal position by the first mark, sitting just behind Italy.

Brazil loomed up behind and the race swung on the decision of the respective crews at the start of the fifth and penultimate leg.

New Zealand went right while Grael and Kunze headed left and it paid off, the locals riding a wind shift into a 10sec lead at the final mark.

Maloney hoped Rio's fickle winds would do them a favour on the final leg.

"We were getting close, we were getting quite excited. It's never over until it's over in Rio," she said.

"But the Brazilians sailed it out. They made a ballsy call on the leg before that and good on them. They had to do it if they were going to catch us and it worked."