Tokyo Olympics: Kiwi sailing campaign taking on water, as America's Cup heroes Burling, Tuke & Junior struggle

With their dominance of America's Cup sailing in recent years, Kiwis have become accustomed to ruling the waves - but early signs suggest the NZ's high hopes at the Tokyo Olympics may fall somewhat short of expectations.

Five years ago, our sailors won four medals at Rio - including gold to Team NZ stars Peter Burling and Blair Tuke in the 49er class - tying athletics (no golds) for our biggest haul by any sport.

Burling, Tuke, Laser specialist Sam Meech, and women's 49er FX exponents Alex Maloney and Molly Meech have all returned five years later, hoping to match or surpass their previous podium finishes.

Another America's Cup hero - Josh Junior - will contest the Finn class, where he is a former world champion, after heading off current champion Andrew Maloney for that right.

But none of the NZ crews have set their competitions alight so far and Wednesday looms as a very big day for all of them, if they hope to make the medal races next week.

Admittedly, it's early days for most, with the men's and women's 49ers, and the Finn only one day into their campaigns, and the ability to drop their worst performance from final calculations.

Most have probably burnt up that lifeline.  

Junior has a 12th and 10th to his name, and sits 14th overall, with 10 progressing to the double-points medal race next Tuesday. He still has eight races to turn his fortunes around.

Admittedly, Burling and Tuke have only one outing under belts, after weather conditions saw two others postponed on opening day. They were near the back of the fleet throughout, trailling the leaders by more than a minute at the first mark, before working their way up to 12th at the finish.  

But when they won at Rio, they took out their opening two races - and a third later in the programme - and their worst (discarded) performance was seventh. Then they won the medal race too.

This time, they're playing catch-up. 

"Unfortunately we didn’t get off to the best start," Tuke says. "We managed to fight back a little bit, but it wasn’t up to the standard we would have hoped for.

"We will come out firing tomorrow, because it’s a long week ahead."

Meanwhile, Maloney and Meech - silver medallists at Rio - got off to a wretched start, leading early, but capsizing to finish 16th in their opener, then earning disqualification for crossing the startline early in the second race.

They recovered to finish fifth in their third outing for 13th overall, with nine races left to break into the top 10, but none of that will matter if they're too far back to challenge.

"We did a lot of the things well on the race course, but we just had two really costly mistakes and that shows on the scoreboard," Maloney says. "We back ourselves still to come out tomorrow and just go for it.

"There’s still a lot to go and we will be fighting to the end."

It's probably too late for Rio bronze medallist Sam Meech, who is already three days and six races into his ultra-competitive Laser competition. His results so far have yielded four placings outside the top 10, with his best - third - coming in his most recent outing.

Meech has a much-needed rest day on Wednesday - a chance to reset - but the others face an early pivotal juncture. 

Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Willcox will open their 470 account, while Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson also make their Games debuts in the Nacra 17 foiling class.

Coming up Wednesday...

Double scullers Brooke Donoghue and Hannah Osborne will become the first of a strong NZ rowing contingent to race for gold, qualifying as the third-fastest crew in their semi-finals.

Donoghue is the reigning world champion, with Olivia Loe, but has had to adjust to a new partner for the Tokyo Olympics.

The All Blacks Sevens take on Great Britain in their semi-final, with the winners progressing to face either defending champions Fiji or Argentina in the final later tonight.

Road cyclists Patrick Bevin and George Bennett will contest the individual time trial, while the Olywhites eye more NZ football history, need to beat Romania to progress out of pool play for the first time.


Women's C1 slalom heats - Luuka Jones 4:20pm & 6:30pm NZ

Men's K1 slalom heats - Callum Gilbert 5:10pm & 7:20pm NZ


Men's individual time trial - George Bennett 5:15pm & Patrick Bevin 6:53pm NZ


Men's first round - OlyWhites v Romania 8:30pm NZ


Women's Pool B - Black Sticks v Spain 2:45pm NZ

Men's Pool A - Black Sticks v Australia 12:15am (July 29) NZ


Men's doubles sculls final B - Chris Harris & Jack Lopas 11:20am NZ

Women's quad sculls final B - Olivia Loe, Eve MacFarlane, Georgia Nugent-O'Leary & Ruby Tew noon NZ

Women's double sculls final A - Brooke Donoghue & Hannah Osborne 12:18pm NZ

Men's pair semi-finals A/B - Stephen Jones & Brook Robertson 3pm NZ

Women's pair semi-finals A/B - Kerri Gowler & Grace Prendergast 3:30pm NZ

Men's eight repechage - Hamish Bond, Sam Bosworth, Michael Brake, Shaun Kirkham, Matt Macdonald, Tom Mackintosh, Tom Murray, Dan Williamson & Philip Wilson 3:50pm NZ


Men's Finn, Races 3 & 4 - Josh Junior 3:05pm NZ

Men's 470, Races 1 & 2 - Paul Snow-Hansen & Daniel Willcox 3:05pm NZ

Men's 49er, Races 2, 3 & 4 - Peter Burling & Blair Tuke 3:05pm NZ

Mixed Nacra 17, Races 1, 2 & 3 - Erica Dawson & Micah Wilkinson 5:35pm NZ 

Women's 49er FX, Races 4, 5 & 6 - Alex Maloney & Molly Meech 5:50pm NZ


Men's semi-finals & medal matches - All Blacks Sevens v Great Britain 2pm & 7:30pm NZ


Women's trap qualifying 1 - Natalie Rooney noon NZ


Men's 200m individual medley heats - Lewis Clareburt 11:12pm NZ

Women's 4x200m freestyle relay heats - Carina Doyle, Erika Fairweather, Ali Gayler & Eve Thomas 11:27pm NZ


Men's doubles quarter-finals - Marcus Daniell & Michael Venus v Cabal/Farah (Colombia) 2pm NZ   

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