New Zealand pair qualify for Tokyo Olympics

Credit: New Zealand Yachting

New Zealand pair qualify for Tokyo Olympics

Susannah Pyatt and Brianna Reynolds-Smith knew they were racing well today but it still came as a surprise to learn they had qualified the women's 470 for New Zealand for next year's Tokyo Olympics.

That's because the pair don't tend to look at results so had little idea how close they were to earning one of the six spots available at these world championships to nations who hadn't already qualified the class for the Games.

In the end, Pyatt and Reynolds-Smith jumped up nine places today to finish 15th overall in the women's fleet. They missed out on a place in tomorrow's top 10, double points medal race - and the gold will likely be decided by the battle between Great Britain and Japan - but that mattered little to a pair who only started sailing together last October.

"We're really stoked and a little surprised [to qualify the boat] because neither of us follow the results," Pyatt said. "I didn't even know what boats had already qualified so we had no idea until we finished the last race and Brownie (coach Andrew Brown) told us he thought we had done it, so it was a really nice surprise."

Pyatt and Reynolds-Smith improved each day as the regatta unfolded, going into the final day of fleet racing in 24th in the 39-boat fleet. They clearly enjoyed the 15-knot winds and big seas on the Olympic course to finish eighth, 13th and fifth in today's three races.

"It shows we can do what we believed we could do," Pyatt said. "Now we have some facts to back it up.

"We were just fighting the whole regatta. We made a decision to give it everything for every race and not think about the outcome. We just kept fighting to the end and we are really stoked with the improvements in every race."

It means New Zealand has now qualified for eight of the 10 classes - men's and women's 470, Laser, Laser Radial, Finn, 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 - and it will be up to the New Zealand selectors to decide which classes and sailors to send to the Olympics.

New Zealand's eight is the highest number of any nation behind Great Britain, who have qualified all 10 classes, and Japan who gain automatic entry to each class.

Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Willcox had already qualified the men's 470 at last year's world championships and came into this regatta with high expectations after a stellar year highlighted by a World Cup Series win and third-placed finish at the 470 European championships.

They did enough today to sneak into the medal race in 10th position, finishing seventh, 12th and 13th in today's three races. They won't factor in the medal equation tomorrow but are looking forward to the final race of the regatta.

"I think we would have loved to be contending for a medal so it's not perfect but I think you also enjoy getting in a medal race, which gives you one more race to prove yourself against the best in the world," Snow-Hansen said. "We are 10th so it can't exactly get any worse so it will be a bit of fun. I think we will just look to improve on what we have been doing this week."

The medal race could become something of a match race between Spain's Jordi Xammar and Nicolas Rodriguez and Australians Mathew Belcher and Will Ryan who are separated by only one point and are already out of reach of the Greek crew in third.

Results and standings after day 5 of the 470 world championships in Enoshima, Japan, today:

Men (52 boats)

1st: Jordi Xammar / Nicolas Rodriguez (ESP) 5 (9) 1 1 1 1 7 1 1 1 4 - 23 points
2nd: Mathew Belcher / Will Ryan (AUS) 4 4 2 1 2 2 2 3 3 (5) 1 - 24 pts
3rd: Panagiotis Mantis / Pavlos Kagialis (GRE) (18) 13 7 4 3 6 1 4 5 2 3 - 48 pts

10th: Paul Snow-Hansen / Dan Willcox (NZL) (24) 1 2 2 10 15 19 11 7 12 13 - 92 pts

Women (39 boats)

1st: Hannah Mills / Eilidh McIntyre (GBR) 1 (18) 1 9 9 1 2 1 16 4 4 - 48 pts
2nd: Ai Kondo Yashida / Miho Yoshioka (JPN) 10 2 3 1 (15) 10 1 2 12 5 3 - 49 pts
3rd: Camile Lecointre / Aloise Retornaz (FRA) (26) 4 5 12 1 20 9 3 6 3 1 - 64 pts

15th: Susannah Pyatt / Brianna Reynolds-Smith (NZL) (36) 26 32 19 11 18 19 14 8 13 5 - 163 pts