As many as 400 of the world’s best sailors will descend on Auckland, New Zealand, next year for the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 world championships.
The event, which will be held at the Royal Akarana Yacht Club from November 29-December 8, 2019, will be an Olympic qualifier for countries who have not already secured a spot for the 2020 Olympics. It’s also likely to be used by many countries as a selection regatta for the Tokyo Games.
It’s already something Rio Olympics 49erFX silver medallists Alex Maloney and Molly Meech are targeting, along with New Zealand’s top Nacra 17 combinations Gemma Jones and Jason Saunders and Liv Mackay and Micah Wilkinson who are both inside the world’s top 10.
“The world championships are a big deal for Molly and I and we will be aiming to win it on home waters,” Maloney said. “It will be an amazing opportunity for the Kiwi sailors to showcase our sport at a high-level competition and it will be special to do it in front of our friends, family, sponsors and the public, including the next generation.”
It’s hoped four-time 49er world champions Peter Burling and Blair Tuke will compete, with the pair contemplating a defence of their 49er Olympic title in Tokyo in 2020, but they are presently focused on competing in the Volvo Ocean Race and will also be involved in the 2021 America’s Cup.
“It’s a great event and to have it on home turf is pretty special for the New Zealand sailors,” Tuke said. “Pete and I would love to be there but we’re still working that through with our coaches and will decide after the Volvo Ocean Race is completed.”
New Zealand last hosted an Olympic-class world championships in 2015 with the Finn Gold Cup at Takapuna, and Torbay hosted the 2016 Aon Youth Sailing World Championships.
Yachting New Zealand have indicated their interest in bringing top international events to this country and chief executive David Abercrombie said hosting the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 world championships was another chance to grow the sport.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase New Zealand’s yachting event delivery,” he said. “We learned a lot on the back of the 2016 Aon Youth Sailing World Championships and this will excite some of those kids and fast track their development into 49ers, 49erFXs and Nacra 17s.
“We’re looking forward to working closely with ATEED and the Royal Akarana Yacht Club. It will be great to deliver an event of this size as a first for the Hyundai Marine Sports Centre.”
Akarana’s new purpose-built 3000m2 Hyundai Marine Sports Centre is due to open in September and, located only 10 minutes from downtown Auckland, will be an ideal location for the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 world championships.
“This is a great chance for our club to continue our high performance sailing tradition in skiffs and catamarans and to show off our new world-class Hyundai Marine Sports Centre,” Royal Akarana Yacht Club commodore Matt Woodley said. “We are very pleased to be delivering this event as a collaborative team effort from all yachting and marine sports community groups, including Yachting New Zealand, the local board, Auckland council and the class associations.”
Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED), on behalf of Auckland Council, have thrown their support behind the 2019 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 world championships and believe it will help build momentum towards the proposed 2021 America’s Cup.
“This builds on Auckland's international reputation as a world-class sailing event host city,” ATEED head of major events Stuart Turner said. “It will showcase Auckland’s beautiful Waitemata Harbour and get the next generation of Olympic sailors from the around the world out sailing on it. It will also support and lift the profile of our marine industry, particularly Auckland’s Olympic-class yacht-building expertise and capacity.”
Mackay Boats are world-renowned and since 2000 their boats have won 30 Olympic medals. It’s likely they will produce a number of new builds for the world championships.
International 49er and Nacra 17 class association president Marcus Spillane said it was appropriate they were bringing the world championships to New Zealand.
“We are delighted to be heading to Auckland and Royal Akarana Yacht Club for the 2019 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 world championships,” Spillane said. “It will be the first worlds that the 49er class has held in New Zealand and it is fitting given that many of our recent champions are Kiwis.
“These classes represent the best mix of sailing, and sailing at its best. We have seen our champions move on to the upper echelons of professional sailing in all the major events, and these events are the training ground for that greatness.
“We are excited for what will be an excellent event and, with the star power of Alex and Molly, Gemma and Jason and hopefully Peter and Blair, it is sure to be followed by sailing fans around the world.”