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Burling and Tuke win gold at Olympic test event

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke knew they had essentially claimed gold at the Olympic test event in Enoshima moments after the start of today's 49er medal race.

The pair had already guaranteed themselves at least silver, with Poland's Pawel Kolodzinski and Lukasz Przybytek the only crew who could overtake them 13 points behind.

But Poland's opportunity was over before it even started when they started prematurely, meaning they had to return to the start line to clear their penalty. From then on, Burling and Tuke kept a cover on the Polish pair and eased to the gold medal.

"The Poles put themselves in a pretty compromised situation with about 10 or 15 seconds to go and we took the opportunity to help them over the wrong side of the start line," Tuke explained. "From there it was quite easy."

They've made the whole regatta look relatively comfortable and there's a feeling around the boat park they are returning to the sort of form that made them so dominant in the last Olympic cycle. They won three of the 13 races in Enoshima and were in the top four in six other races to highlight their consistency.

It's also a good omen because they won the Olympic test event in 2015 and backed it up with gold in Rio a year later and were third at the London test event and second at the 2012 Olympic Games.

"We are really happy to secure that gold medal, which is what we came to do," Burling said. "This is a really big one, being the Olympic test event. It's definitely something you try to perform well at.

"This is the only real practice we get at the right time of year with everything as close as possible to what it will be like in 12 months' time. It's really, really pleasing to be able to take a solid win here. We feel like we are progressing nicely and getting better as we go."

The pair will take a small break from 49er sailing as they commit to their other day job, the small matter of helping Emirates Team New Zealand defend the America's Cup, but the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 world championships in Auckland at the end of the year won't be far from their thoughts.

"We are happy with how we are tracking but we have a big 12 months coming up and we're really looking forward to the next event we have, which is the worlds back in Auckland," Tuke said. "It's probably one of the coolest events we have ever done to date so we are looking forward to that. For the moment we will enjoy this and keep charging on."

Burling and Tuke will miss next week's World Cup Series regatta in Enoshima but it looms as an important event for Alex Maloney and Molly Meech after they narrowly missed out on a medal in the 49erFX at the Olympic test event.

The pair went into the top 10, double points race in third but finished seventh to slip to fourth in the standings.

"We went in with a pretty good game plan and ready to race but, unfortunately, we made quite a few mistakes and gave the race away," Meech said. "There were lots of opportunities for us but we really didn't make it work."

Maloney added: "We are both pretty gutted. We had a good start and we were definitely in it but just made numerous mistakes. We can't go back and change time, only learn from [the mistakes] and move forward.

"There were at least 20 points we gave up [during the regatta], some things in our control and some things out of our control. We just want to go out and have another really good event [next week], try to win it and have a lot of fun doing it."

New Zealand will have two more sailors involved in tomorrow's medal races, with Andy Maloney fourth in the Finn and Sam Meech fifth in the Laser.

The Laser, in particular, is shaping up as a fascinating battle, with the top five sailors separated by only seven points. Meech was ninth and 27th in today's two races and many of his rivals also found themselves deep in the field in the tricky 8-10 knot conditions.

"I think it's going to be all on with not many points between everyone," he said. "I think there will be a lot of tacking on each other. Everyone will be trying to win the race but hammer each other on the way."

Andy Maloney will need to put together a good race in the Finn showdown to get on the podium. The gold medal is out of reach - Hungary's Zsombor Berecz has already wrapped that up - but Dutchman Nicholas Heiner (10 points ahead) and Great Britain's Giles Scott (nine points ahead) are within striking distance.

Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Willcox missed out on the men's 470 medal race, finishing 15th overall.

New Zealand results and standings after day five of the Olympic test event in Enoshima today:

49er (21 boats)

1st: Peter Burling / Blair Tuke (NZL) 3 1 1 (13) 9 4 3 2 2 4 1 7 16 - 53 points
2nd: Dylan Fletcher / Stuart Bithell (GBR) 1 10 4 10 10 (16) 5 4 7 3 3 1 6 - 64 pts
3rd: Pawel Kolodzinski / Lukasz Przybytek (POL) 2 4 7 2 3 5 11 6 1 (12) 4 5 18 - 68 pts