Fletcher and Bithell win world gold on historic day for British sailing
Sailing

Fletcher and Bithell win world gold on historic day for British sailing

05 September 2017 / 17:23

European champions Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell added 49er World Championship gold to their collection in a history-making feat for British sailing.

With teammates James Peters and Fynn Sterritt taking silver behind them in Porto, it made their achievements the best ever British result in the 49er Olympic class, with Fletcher and Bithell becoming the first Brits to top the podium since 2007.

With poor weather conditions having hampered the first two days of racing in Portugal, the last day saw four final gold fleet races for the 49ers, with Fletcher and Bithell – ranked the world number one pair – lining up as overnight leaders.

They were able to keep the chasing pack at bay, eventually sealing gold by four points to repeat the achievement of their coach Ben Rhodes, alongside Stevie Morrison, from ten years ago.

“It was a Championship with a few delays, a few lost days – some with no wind, some with too much wind,” said Fletcher, who placed sixth in the events at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games with Alain Sign.

“We got some really good racing in. There was potential that there was going to be half the races of the whole regatta – potentially seven races – so we went out on the last morning to attack the last fleet racing, did a really good job and we’ve come out victorious!

“We knew we were guaranteed a silver going into the last race and the only way James and Fynn could beat us was to win it with us getting fourth or worse.  We tried to start to the right of them and stay ahead of them up the beat, which we did.

“We thought we’d done the job and the job was over, but we let them split from us and actually in hindsight that was a bit of a mistake because they managed to pull back a little bit.”

And having worked alongside their wider teammates for much of the summer, London 2012 silver medallist Bithell was delighted to reap the rewards of their hard toil.

“We’ve spent a lot of time this summer actually not doing so much racing and have put a lot of time and energy into tuning with the other British sailors,” said Bithell.

“It’s clearly paid off well. The boys are fast, we’re fast and actually the younger sailors in the programme as well are a lot quicker than they used to be, so that’s really good.”

In the concurrent 49erFX World Championships, European silver medallists Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey finished ninth overall after a tough end to their regatta, with Kate Macgregor and Sophie Ainsworth narrowly missing out on the top ten.

Sportsbeat 2017

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