Winning Factory

The roll call of alumni at Murrays Bay Sailing Club, a short drive north out of Auckland on the east coast, reads like a who’s who not only of New Zealand yachting but world sailing excellence. Dean Barker, Craig Monk, John Cutler, Nathan Handley, Ray Davies, Geoff Senior, David Barnes, Hamish Wilcox, Nik Burfoot, Kevin Borrows, Dan Slater…the list goes on.

©Robert Deaves

Adding to the Club alumni’s palmares is Andy Maloney who secured the Finn Gold Cup in Porto yesterday and brings home the diminutive trophy – one of the most prized assets in global sailboat racing. There must be something in the water at Murrays Bay but the Club call it how it is. It’s the kind of club that you and I would join if we lived in New Zealand:

It is hard to quantify exactly why so many of our sailors do well. Clearly there is a tremendous amount of work put into training. It may also have something to do with the early training in excellent sailing waters found on the bay. We would like to think it is also a result of the friendly environment and companionship found at the club, and the hours of work that our members and volunteers contribute.

Well those long hours have been and are continuing to pay handsome dividends with Maloney’s success the latest, rather delicious, piece of icing on the cake. For every Finn Gold Cup winner there’s a few hundred kids sailing their P-Class and Starlings at the Club who don’t necessarily win in competition but succeed in learning independence, freedom, and the joy of dinghy sailing in its purest form. And with absolute legends of the sport connected to the Club and committed to returning and repaying a small part of what Murrays Bay has given them, there’s a clear pathway and bags of encouragement to those that have the talent.

New Zealand sailing is firmly on the up at the moment. Fresh from the America’s Cup annihilation of all-comers, the dinghy sailors are now showing some serious form in the Olympic fleets. Maloney and Josh Junior are the ones to beat in the Finns. Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Wilcox have just won the 470 Europeans and Pete Burling and Blair Tuke are nigh on untouchable in the 49er class. There could well be a Kiwi gold rush in Tokyo in a few weeks time (if it happens).

©Robert Deaves – 2021 Finn Gold Cup – Porto, Portugal

The winning factory shows no sign of production slowing down. There’s no identifiable recession in Kiwi sailing. The market is firmly in bull territory and all the signals are positive. The NZL Sailing Team now has a structure and pathway that mimics the very best governing bodies with an outright focus on development.

The names in the Olympic development squad are the stars to watch in the future. Look out for Isaac McHardie and William Mackenzie who are racking up U23 World Championships for a laugh. And George Gautrey is a coming force in the Laser fleet. Then beneath that there’s the Aon Fast Track programme where the seriously talented get pushed like Blake McGlashan, Seb Menzies and Veerle ten Have who are all set to be the superstars of the future. It’s an impressive, focussed set-up.

And it’s that set-up that has led to such an extraordinary double-win back to back for New Zealand in the Finn Gold Cup. Josh Junior broke a 60 year Kiwi duck to win in 2019 and Maloney’s win in Porto puts the New Zealand duo at the apex of the game. These two are curious in that they are best mates and have a total focus on supporting each other in the pursuit of gold in Enoshima Harbour, 60km south of Tokyo. It’s a winning formula from two thoroughly personable Kiwi athletes who are showing that good guys do win and they win with a smile on their face and congratulate each other as JJ says so eloquently: It’s awesome to see Andy win the world championship. I was lucky enough to win it last time, and it’s cool that Andy had backed it up and kept it in New Zealand. I’m stoked for him.”

“As usual, the Finn fleet is super close. You can see that in the points and people are up and down and it’s just about not getting any big ones. It was a really close week and we just managed to do enough be out in front. We are so stoked where we are at and can’t wait to keep pushing forwards. From here we just keep working together, stick to the plan we had and the person who goes to the Games will hopefully be better than what we are now.”

Josh Junior was the media sensation at the America’s Cup with a smiling, can-do, enthusiastic persona that everyone wanted to interview. With that attitude, who would bet against them at Tokyo? And who’d want to be on the Kiwi selection panel awarding the nation’s endorsement and the plane ticket to Japan? Not me…

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