Kiwi Laser sailor Sam Meech has had a disappointing start to his campaign, finishing well off the pace in his first race on Sunday.
Meech, who took the bronze medal in Rio, finished in 19th place, 2:43 minutes behind the winner Jean Baptiste Bernaz (France). The second Laser race, which had been scheduled for this evening, was postponed due to light winds.
The result in the first race was far from terminal for Meech – given there are a further eight heats before the medal race next Sunday – but it means there is a little less margin for error as the regatta progresses.
Bernaz, who placed fifth in Rio four years ago was followed by Kaarle Tapper (Finland), Hermann Tomasgaard (Norway), and the Cypriot Pavlos Kontides.
Meech admitted before the Olympics that this event would be a venture into the unknown compared to Rio, given his lack of international competition since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
While most of his rivals, especially the Europeans, have been able to continue in major regattas, Meech has mostly been working in New Zealand, as well as a pre-Olympics training bloc in Australia.
He had a difficult afternoon. Meech opted for the far right-hand side of the course on the first beat, but spent most of it at the back of the fleet.
The Kiwi, who was 26th at one point in the 35-strong field, progressed to 16th at the first mark, just under a minute behind the leaders.
2016 silver medallist Tonci Stipanovic (Croatia) was the early pacesetter, before Enrique Jose Arathoon Pacas (El Salvador) led the fleet into the second leg.
The central American then incurred a penalty turn midway through the downwind leg, allowing Bernaz, who finished fourth at last year's World Championships, to take the initiative, which he retained until the end.
At the bottom mark, Meech was 18th, 1:15 behind the Frenchman.
The fleet dispersed on the third leg – as conditions became a bit more unstable – but the 30-year-old Meech couldn't find the shift he desperately needed, still stuck at the rear, 1:48 minutes adrift of the leader in 24th place.
He made up some ground on the fourth leg, reaching the final mark in 19th, with his Australian rival Matthew Wearn two places ahead.