New Zealand sailors Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Willcox have fired a warning shot to their Tokyo Olympics rivals after taking out the European championships in the 470 class in their first event in 18 months.
The pair finished 10th at the 2016 Olympics but this result has boosted their confidence ahead of what will be their second Olympic campaign.
"It's a cool way to wrap up our last event in Europe," Willcox said.
"Most likely this will be the last event in Europe for Snowy and I, so to finish on a note like that and win a European title... is epic. Totally stoked."
The pair went into the top-10 medal race in second place, eight points behind Kevin Peponnet and Jeremie Mion and needing to finish at least four boats ahead of the French combination.
They managed to do that in the double points showdown, with Snow-Hansen and Willcox fourth and the French ninth in the light 5-8 knot sea breeze.
Spain's Jordi Xammar and Nicolas Rodriguez were third overall and multiple world champions and defending Olympic champions Mathew Belcher and Will Ryan of Australia fourth.
"Obviously we were in a pretty tight spot in second place [going into the race] and we were really just trying to execute what we thought would work on the day and really hoped that an opportunity would present itself," Snow-Hansen said.
"We were pretty stoked when we went across the finish line and started to work out that we'd actually taken the title."
New Zealand has a proud history in the men's 470 class with Willcox's father, Hamish, the winner of three world titles with David Barnes in the 1980s; but no Kiwis had won the European championships since Simon Cooke and Peter Nicholas in 2000.
This regatta was the pair's first international event since 2019 and were in the dark about how they would fare against the world's best combinations after so long in the wilderness.
"Because we had been out of the loop, we just came in here focusing on what we had learned in New Zealand," Snow-Hansen said. "We were just wanting to see how we measured up and we're really excited with how we ended up going.
"For sure it's a confidence booster for us [leading into the Olympics] but, at the same time, we have a bit of work to do. Our competition isn't going to stop training now they are just ramping up into a nice European summer so we are going to have to keep the throttle down and try to build on this."
Snow-Hansen and Willcox are two of several New Zealand sailors currently building up to the Tokyo Olympics on a list that includes the likes of Peter Burling, Blair Tuke, Erica Dawson, Alex Maloney, Josh Junior, Sam Meech, Molly Meech and Micah Wilkinson.