Fletcher and Bithell recover from capsize to take 49er World Championship bronze

Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell survived a capsize in the drama-filled final race to earn a brilliant bronze in sailing's year-ending 49er World Championships in Auckland.

The British pair already became European champions this year and added another medal to a superb 12 months, becoming the only duo to finish on the podium at every regatta they’ve entered in 2019.

They were forced to do things the hard way in the 49er class, however, with their medal chances in jeopardy after being one of four teams to capsize in the double-points medal race.

A quick recovery allowed them to eventually finish eighth, with their final tally seeing the Brits finish just one point ahead of Spain’s Diego Botin and Iago Lopez Marra.

An excellent year it may have been but Bithell is already targeting more in 2020 – with the World Championships to come in February ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

“Today was pretty hectic,” said Bithell. “We had two windy fleet races and then back out for the medal race. The conditions once again proved difficult – short chop and heaps of breeze. “We did a good job on the fleet racing managing to get a 15-point lead over fourth place. Unfortunately, first and second was out the equation for the final medal race, but we raced conservatively to hold onto the bronze medal.

“There was a final twist down the last run where four boats capsized at the gybe point, we managed to recover quickest which was enough for the bronze.

“Overall we are super happy and still believe we left a lot of easy points on the water.”

Fletcher and Bithell went into the final day’s racing in third place, a position they held on to following two fleet races prior to the medal event.

The untimely capsize ensured the world title was out of their reach, however, with reigning Olympic champions Peter Burling and Blair Tuke of New Zealand taking gold while silver went to Germany’s Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel.

But for a British pair that won gold at both the Princess Sofia Regatta and the European Championships this year, settling for anything less than top spot isn’t in their psyche.

“We are super proud to round our 2019 season off with a World Championship medal,” said Fletcher, who also won silver with Bithell in the Tokyo 2020 test event.

“Being the only team to medal at every major regatta we have entered shows our consistency.

“Although we are not content and need to improve our game to consistently winning, the room is there and we left a lot of points on the table this week.

“Next up its the 2020 worlds in two months, we will be looking to build on this and take the title.”

Sportsbeat 2019