Josh Junior and Andy Maloney made a good return to dinghy sailing to be handily placed after the first day of the Finn European Championships in Cadiz, Spain.
Junior was sixth and Maloney 12th in the only race possible. A second race was abandoned near the end of the first upwind leg due to light and patchy winds and the fleet of 91 boats also had to contend with a 3m swell left over from the storm that caused Sunday’s practice race to be abandoned.
The European championships represent the first major regatta for Junior and Maloney since helping Emirates Team New Zealand win the America’s Cup win. The pair went into the regatta with moderate expectations after such a long break from dinghy sailing but they both showed they are on pace. It is also Maloney’s first major event since switching from a Laser to the heavyweight dinghy.
“Both Josh and I are really enjoying being back racing,” Maloney said. “It’s a huge fleet of nearly 100 boats so starts are really important.
“The left-over swell from the storm which hammered Cadiz the last few days made for very tricky racing in 7-9 knots. The big waves suck you around a lot. On the face of the wave you have a lot of wind, but on the back side you have very little. It’s very technical and required a lot of concentration to keep the boat going fast.
“It’s good to get the first race under our belts and we are super excited to get back out there tomorrow.”
Nicholas Heiner from the Netherlands goes into the second day in the lead after winning the opening race. Heiner is a former Laser world champion who also switched to the Finn after the Rio Olympics and spent three months in Auckland training with Junior and Maloney during the New Zealand summer.
He rounded the top mark first, just ahead of Maloney, and showed good speed on the downwind legs to claim victory. Argentina’s Facunda Olezza finished second but picked up a one-point penalty for failing to sign out, leaving him tied on points with Olympic bronze medallist Caleb Paine of the US who was third.
“It’s been really good and I think the speed today showed we are quite fast, especially on the downwind,” Heiner said of his time training with Junior and Maloney in New Zealand. “I was actually quite happy to have some decent starts and still have the racing skills.”
Junior and Maloney were also encouraged by their form and both are being coached by two-time Olympian Andrew Murdoch who Junior beat for New Zealand’s Finn spot in Rio.
“Obviously Doc (Murdoch) was racing against me for the Olympics, but he is an extremely experienced racer and when it comes to big fleet sailing he’s one of the best in the world, so we are really lucky to have him here and he’s going to do the rest of the season,” Junior said.