Andrew Murdoch gains an appetite for Finns
Andrew Murdoch had every excuse to tuck in during the festive season - the two-time Olympic sailor is changing tack for Rio 2016 and he needs to pile on the pounds.
The 30-year-old from Kerikeri has ditched the Laser class after 14 years in the dinghy and is embarking on a campaign in the Finn, a heavyweight dinghy.
A four-time medallist at Laser world championships, and with credible fifths at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, Murdoch has decided he needs a fresh challenge. He had been mulling over the change since the conclusion of the London Olympics, a regatta in which he had high hopes of a medal but narrowly missed.
"I've been sailing a Laser since 1998 and I guess for my development as a sailor, I'm keen to learn new things so I've probably got to jump into a new boat to do that," he said yesterday.
"It's exciting to be in a new boat. I've got no idea how I'm going to go in it, but if I stick at it I'm sure I'll be at the right end of the fleet soon enough."
Murdoch leaves the Laser class in New Zealand in healthy shape, with 2012 world championship bronze medallist Andy Maloney the obvious candidate to assume the mantle.
The Finn is weaker, following Dan Slater's retirement after the Olympics. But Josh Junior, another of the talented Kiwi youngsters, switched from the Laser to the Finn last year so has a jump on Murdoch and is a top prospect.
"In some ways it would have been good if Dan continued; the better competition you have in your own country, the better chance you have internationally," Murdoch said. "After Beijing, it was good to work a lot with some good local Laser sailors and that class is in good shape now.
"I'm hoping for the same in the Finn class now. Hopefully we [he and Junior] can work together."
Murdoch is aiming to go from the low-80 kilograms to about 95kg, to start with, for better boat handling capability. He's already over 90kg.
The Finn, a class dominated in recent years by England's Ben Ainslie, is also less standardised than the Laser, and there are more things sailors can tweak or set up differently, depending on the conditions.
His first competitive regatta will be Sail Auckland, from February 2-5, and he will embark on a European campaign, with World Cup regattas in Spain and France, as well as the European championship in Germany in July and the Gold Cup, the Finn class world championship, in Estonia in August.
"I'll be looking very green in the fleet," he said of his debut in Auckland next month. "I'm just really getting the training wheels off at the moment.
"It's pretty hard to put a target on the year at the moment. If I can get a few encouraging results this year, that will be a good start. There's a lot to work on.
"In some ways four years is a lot of time, but you can't get enough time really. Rio will be here before we know it and I need to get up to speed quickly."