Fletcher and Bithell remain top as Princess Sofia success continues for Brits

Written by RYA | 05 April 2018

Tricky winds test sailors on fourth day of regatta

World champion 49er duo Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell fended off a spirited attack from Argentina’s Lange brothers on Thursday to go into the final day of fleet racing at Princess Sofia Trophy on top.

The British Sailing Team pairing (pictured top right) began the fourth day of the iconic regatta ahead but were met with tricky weather conditions and fired-up rivals on the waters of Palma Bay.

Racing was delayed an hour to allow for the forecast breeze to build, and although the 49ers had the best of it blowing through their course area it was anything but plain sailing. 

Fletcher and Bithell opened their scorecards with a sixth then followed it up with a ninth – decent results had it not been for the consistent performances of their closest competition from the Langes and France’s Mathieu Frei and Noé Delpech.

With two of the day’s three races complete, a brace of thirds for the Argentinians was enough to move them into pole position on equal points with Fletcher and Bithell. 

But the British pair answered back with a ‘bullet’ – sailing slang for a race win – in the final race of the day to reclaim pole position with one more day of fleet racing remaining. 

Across the ten classes in action, only the top ten in each fleet will then go through to the double points-scoring medal races scheduled for Saturday (April 7) that will decide the final podium positions.   

“It was tricky today – there was a kind of sea breeze but not your classic Palma sea breeze, it was more unstable,” said Manchester’s Bithell, who won silver with Luke Patience in the men’s 470 at London 2012 before teaming up with Fletcher in January 2017.   

“There were some random things happening out there, but we managed to stay calm and keep making the right decisions.   

“We had a rough idea of how close it was getting, but at this stage of a regatta we tend just to focus on our own results.   “It was good to end on a bullet, but the most important thing is that we made some changes after the first two races because we weren’t feeling that fast and they worked.   

“It was nice to be able to problem solve quickly, it’s a good learning process. The wind is forecast to swing offshore tomorrow so it’s potentially going to be another interesting day but we’ll be ready for it.”   

In the 79-boat Finn fleet, Rio 2016 gold medallist Giles Scott has amassed a huge 37-point lead after only finishing outside of the top ten once in eight races.   

A second and a fifth today puts him in a commanding position with only two fleet races remaining.  

Two race wins and a fourth for Nacra 17 pair Ben Saxton and Nicola Boniface keep them firmly in second overall, just seven points behind leaders Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti of Italy.   

In the women’s RS:X fleet, Emma Wilson continued her string of top results with a third-place finish in the opening race of the day, and despite a 20th in the next she sits sixth overall.   

Women’s 470 pair Amy Seabright and Anna Carpenter (above) have moved into fourth, nine points behind teammates Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre in second, after a notching up two sixths.   

Competition resumes with the final day of fleet racing tomorrow at 1100 local time (0900 GMT).   

 Full results are available on the Princess Sofia Trophy website.  Follow all the action at the British Sailing Team’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.

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