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Timely worlds boost for Saxton and Boniface

by British Sailing Team 29 Nov 10:52 GMT
Ben Saxton and Nikki Boniface win the Hyundai Nacra 17 Oceania Championship © Matias Capizzano /

Britain's Ben Saxton says victory at the Oceania Championship was the perfect confidence boost ahead of the Nacra 17 World Championship.

Saxton and crew Nikki Boniface won the Auckland-based Oceania Championship - a crucial warm-up to the worlds - convincingly, finishing first in five of the eight races amid a fleet packed full of the class's top teams.

Although the three-day event didn't have the gravity of a major regatta it provided Saxton and Boniface with the ideal launchpad for the world championships, which starts on Tuesday December 3.

Their win continues their fine run of form in 2019 that saw them take victory at the European Championship, silver at World Cup Series Enoshima and bronze at the Tokyo 2020 test event.

The world championships, which concludes on Sunday December 8, will prove a crucial benchmark of performance with Tokyo 2020 just eight months away.

"It's great to keep our good form from the year going out here in New Zealand," said Saxton, 29, from Cambridge.

"It's much better to win the Oceania Championship than be outside the top five. Everyone in the fleet was racing their hardest. We also had a mix of conditions, so it was a great confidence boost.

"Winning is addictive and we were gutted to not win the World Cup in Japan, so it was good to win the Oceania Championship. Overall we're excited and looking forward to having some fun at the worlds next week."

John Gimson and Anna Burnet, Saxton and Boniface's Tokyo 2020 rivals for the one British spot in the Nacra 17, came home ninth in the Oceania Championship but plan to come out fighting at the worlds.

"This world championship is going to be extremely competitive," said Burnet, 27, from Shandon, Scotland.

"There's a lot on the line for almost everybody with Olympic qualification so we're expecting the level to be high.

"We've spent the last few weeks doing our best to learn the venue which is a challenge with 11 possible race areas. Now it's about focusing on the details and getting ourselves into racing mode."

Also in action will be the 49er and 49erFX skiff classes, with British medal potential in both.

On-form European 49er champions Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell will be out to add to the world title they claimed in 2017 as they lead a strong four-boat British 49er squad.

"We have been in Auckland a couple of weeks now getting prepared for the upcoming worlds," Fletcher, 31, from Thames Ditton, London, said.

"The conditions have been awesome and we have been learning as much as we can about all the different course areas. Having had a disappointing worlds last year finishing sixth we are looking to repeat our 2017 performance and take the title once again. Beating the Kiwis [reigning Olympic champions Peter Burling and Blair Tuke] in their home turf would really top it all off."

GB pairings Jack Hawkins and Chris Thomas, Chris Taylor and Rhos Hawes and James Grummett and Dan Budden complete the 49er line-up.

In the FX, Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey will look to capitalise on their bronze medal at the Tokyo 2020 test event, while Megan Brickwood and Steph Orton will be out to impress at their first world championship together.

Dobson, 33, from Rhu, Scotland, said: "Auckland so far has provided some incredible conditions for skiff sailing. The wind has often been really affected by the land and very unstable making the racing really tricky.

"The worlds is a very long series, and it these instable conditions we are going to be pushed mentally and physically to stay consistent and keep plugging away. This event is the Olympic trials for many nations and also an opportunity to qualify country spots for the Games.

"The fleet has noticeably raised its game so we are going to have to be at the top of ours to deliver the results we want."

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