Kiwi pair have pedigree to excel at top level

FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 05:00 05/02/2013

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Lock in the names Alex Maloney and Molly Meech.

Unless you're a fully paid-up member of the sailing community you probably haven't heard of the two young Kiwi sailors, but expect to over the next four years.

Maloney, 20, and Meech, 19, are ranked No 1 in the world in the 49erFX skiff, a class which last year got the thumbs up from ISAF to make its Olympic debut at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

They have had a bit of a headstart on the rest of the world in that they were involved in testing and trialling the design last year as they worked alongside the FX's Kiwi designers, Mackay Boats.

They helped test the rig - the hull is the same as the men's 49er but with a smaller rig - and their familiarity, as well as hard graft training alongside the likes of men's 49er Olympic silver medallists Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, paid dividends with victories in the first two regattas to feature the class, the Sail Melbourne World Cup regatta and Sail Sydney, late last year.

"Going into the trials we were hoping the FX was going to get the all clear and we were obviously really happy a New Zealand design got chosen for the Olympics," Maloney said.

"We sailed irregularly for a few months but we have probably been sailing solidly together for six months now and training pretty hard with the 49er squad.

"But I don't think we have an advantage. We've just worked hard to be where we are, but there are a lot of good skiff sailors globally who will be hopping into the FX and also other Olympic class sailors, so I think the gap will close quickly. We just need to keep working hard."

Meech said being "down here in New Zealand" made it tough to follow progress of what other nations were doing, though they will have a good idea by the end of this year.

The Kiwis will head to Europe and compete in several World Cup regattas, as well as the world championships in France this September.

"The fleet will grow quickly, competition is going to be tough in the upcoming regattas."

Both Maloney, from Auckland, and Meech, from Tauranga, come from sailing families, and have progressed through the youth classes - Maloney was a youth worlds silver medallist in the 29er and Meech was a top youth Laser Radial sailor.

Curiously, their brothers, Andy Maloney and Sam Meech, are ranked No 1 and 2 respectively, in New Zealand for the Laser class, and will most likely be vying for one spot to represent New Zealand at the Rio Olympics in three years' time. Andy Maloney won bronze at last year's world championship, while Sam Meech finished 17th.

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"Our families are quite close and our brothers have been training partners for the last four years, and probably for the next four years too.

"They have both been great role models for us so it will be great to travel around with them."

After this week's Sail Auckland regatta, which they currently lead having won seven of the eight races, the pair have a month of training before heading to Europe.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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