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Meech returns to racing in France
Posted at 12:55pm Tuesday 25 Apr, 2017
The World Cup regatta in Hyeres this week marks Tauranga sailor Sam Meech’s first competition back in the Laser since his medal winning efforts at the Rio Olympics.
He is one of a small team of New Zealand sailors competing in France in the Olympic classes, with most of the rest promising youngsters looking for increased international exposure.
The regatta also marks the beginnings of the 26-year-old’s preparations for the 2017 Laser World Championships in Croatia in September.
He would normally have high expectations for a regatta like Hyeres, but he doesn’t really know how he will stack up against the likes of Olympic champion Tom Burton from Australia after so long out of the boat.
Meech underwent knee surgery in December but ongoing issues delayed his return to training until the end of February.
“It’s neat being back in the boat and to have no expectations. I had no idea how I was going to go after five months off. I had never taken more than three weeks off over the last five years.
“It’s hard to say [how I will go in Hyeres]. I’m lacking a bit of feel in the boat but I seem to be going OK. I have built up a lot of experience over the years and hopefully that will see me
Those experiences have now seen him race in other boats. Meech received an invitation to race in the Star Sailing League finals event in the Bahamas alongside the likes of Robert Scheidt, Paul Cayard, Torben Grael and Taylor Canfield.
Meech teamed up with former Olympic bronze medallist and two-time America’s Cup winner Craig Monk, who Meech had met fortuitously on an international flight.
“I got an invite a couple of weeks after the Olympics and it was like, ‘who do I know who is big enough to sail a Star?’ And obviously Craig used to sail one. I sent a message to him on Facebook and he was really keen.
“We started terribly. I managed to break pretty much everything on the boat and on the first day we managed to capsize. And Star’s never capsize. It was bad. We improved every day and on the last day we were leading both races and finished 16th overall which, considering the start, was really good.
“I have spent hours and hours in the Laser so I think sailing other classes and with other people is something I want to do more of in the next few years. There’s so much you can learn from other people.”
There are also others looking to learn from him and also knock him off his perch as New Zealand’s top Laser sailor.
The class is one of the most competitive in this country and the likes of Tom Saunders, Andrew McKenzie and Andy Maloney, if he returns to the Laser after the upcoming America’s Cup, are all targeting the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
McKenzie is also competing this week in Hyeres, along with Youth America’s Cup sailors Micah Wilkinson (Nacra with Liv Mackay) and Isaac McHardie (49er with William McKenzie).
Racing gets underway on Tuesday evening (NZT).
PLAY IT AGAIN SAM
It was while out sailing with his parents that Meech decided he wanted to put another Olympic campaign together.
Normally Meech would sit on the family boat chatting while his father did most of the work but this time, about a month after collecting bronze in the Laser class at the Rio Olympics, he asked to steer.
And he enjoyed it.
“I just started missing it. I missed being on the water. When you’re training day in, day out and you’re thinking about results you lose that enjoyment.
“I hadn’t really made any decisions before [the Olympics] whether I would keep sailing so I got home and had to sort all that out all of a sudden. It was a bit scary for a while.”