Shining New Stars 

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Dylan Fletcher knows that when it comes to possible 2012 selection he and crewmate Alain Sign are the young wannabes of the Skandia Team GBR 49er squad.

But having just scooped their first ever Championship medal together at the Perth International Regatta, the duo are happy to have given Britain’s selection team an emphatic nudge as 2010 becomes 2011.  

Fletcher and Sign’s silver in Perth came off the back of a medal race in which the pair, aged 22 and 24 respectively, showed their increasing maturity to lead from start to finish and close out any threat they may have had of missing out on a much sought after podium finish.  

Having finished as the top British boat but without a medal to show for it in taking fifth at January’s 49er Worlds in the Bahamas, and consistently posting top 10 finishes throughout the season, Fletcher and Sign were keen to finally get the medal monkey off their backs.  

And having now secured that cherished piece of silverware, Fletcher hopes it has given them a platform to propel themselves into genuine 2012 selection contention next year.  

He said: “We are the youngest British 49er team and we know we have got the most to do to prove we could be ready for 2012. But this medal has given us a massive confidence boost and all we can do now is try to build on that and become the dominant British boat next season.  

“It was great to get a medal in 2010 and not have to wait until we start racing again in Palma next spring. When we finished fifth at the Worlds this year we had never finished in the top 10 at the Grade 1 regatta before and at the time, as the nippers, all we wanted to do was beat the other British boats. Now we know it is more about medalling than beating the British boats and our hunger to win a medal in Perth was a bit different having never previously been able to take that step.”  

Not that Fletcher and Sign went off to Western Oz with nothing else by medals on their minds; on the contrary.  

Following a “difficult” Skandia Sail for Gold in August, where the pair struggled with speed in a new boat and limped to 18th, they simply wanted to see if all the work they had done on the boat in the weeks since Sail for Gold was paying off.  

Fletcher admits they were hugely heartened that in training before the Perth regatta got underway they were finding boat speed they couldn’t get close to at Weymouth and Portland while they also learned massive amounts about how else their campaign could improve as well as getting to grips with the conditions at what is the venue for the 2011 ISAF World Championships next December.  

However, it was only once racing commenced, and results started being posted, that they started to really focus in on their season’s goal; the podium.  

“Even though training had gone well we didn’t go into the regatta so confident, and we were perhaps a bit wary, because the last time we had used that kit at Sail for Gold things hadn’t gone so well. But as the regatta went on we grew more and more confident and we were delighted to turn that into a medal.”

Fletcher and Sign remained in Perth with 49er squad mates Dave Evans and Ed Powys and John Pink and Rick Peacock for another week’s training after the regatta to make the most of the chance to train in big breezes and warm weather before returning to the UK. They will then head out to Cadiz in Southern Spain where they will spend the bulk of the winter training. Boat speed and putting on weight are the boys’ goals for by the time the 2011 European season commences in Palma.  

Fletcher believes the pair have grown up a lot over the past 12 months both as sailors and individuals and that has been notable in the gains they have made in training and the way they have been running their campaign.  

And he knows that as part of arguably the most competitive, and talent laden British squad, there is no scope for he and Sign to take their foot off the pedal if 2012 is to prove a realistic ambition.  

“We have had a much more professional approach to our campaign this year,” Fletcher adds. “We have been training a lot with Chris Draper and Peter Greenhalgh and they have got so much experience you cannot fail to pick up tips as to how to manage your campaign. We have seen how particular they are about everything and how they always look to get the most out of every session and that is a big lesson for us to learn.  

“After Sail for Gold we took a bit of time off to think about where we had made mistakes and how to go forward from there. I really struggle to switch off completely and am always thinking about what we could be doing so I went kitesurfing to give me something else to think about. When we came back we were itching to get back in the boat so it was completely the right thing for us to have done.  

“Being part of such a competitive British 49er squad is the best thing but the worst thing at the same time. You have got a group of guys who are really committed to trying to be the best and pushing all the time.  

“Someone is always at their peak and everyone is always trying to be the top boat. It is so motivating but at the same time not everyone can be the top boat. All you can do is keep trying to be the top boat and show your worth to the selectors and everyone else. Getting a medal in Perth was a big thing for us in that respect.”