The first day of World Cup medal racing in Gamagori on Saturday (21 October) yielded a British 1-2 in the 49er class, with World and European Champions Dylan Fletcher-Stuart Bithell claiming the regatta victory.
The duo have now won their past three events in a row, seeing off a strong challenge from teammates and eventual silver medallists James Peters-Fynn Sterritt on a light wind-affected and rainy day in Japan.
Fletcher-Bithell took a five point lead over their British stablemates into the three-race finale for the men’s skiff fleet, with the two teams battling it out for top honours right through until the final run of the final race.
Peters-Sterritt, who won silver at both the Worlds and Europeans, cranked up the pressure early on, with a win in the first race of three narrowing the gap.
But Fletcher-Bithell turned the tables in the second to set up a final race showdown for gold.
“We were both guaranteed silver going into the last race,” Fletcher explained. “We chose to match race them to put us as far as possible down the fleet to ensure we would beat them because we were ahead on points.
“It was going smoothly until we made a mistake, at the bottom, and they wiggled free.”
Peters-Sterritt managed to get ahead and at one stage had almost enough boats between themselves and their teammates to be in gold medal position before a pile-up at the finish ended any title hopes.
“We thought we had to overtake one more boat to beat Dylan and Stuart overall,” Peters explained.
“We were trying to overtake but the French boat didn’t give us enough room at the finish and ultimately, we were rafting against the committee boat. It was a bit of an unfortunate way to end the last race.”
Fletcher-Bithell sailed back past their teammates to finish sixth in the final race, ahead of Peters-Sterritt in eighth, and secure gold by six points.
“It’s been a fantastic year. We started sailing together a year ago and it’s gone from strength to strength. We’ve medalled at all the major events, and we’ve won the last three on the trot. At the moment we’re in our little purple streak and hopefully we can dominate like the Kiwis did and beat them when they come back.
“We have all been working very hard and it’s nice to see that it’s paying off with the Worlds, Europeans and the Gamagori World Cup Series, we have been doing really well,” added Bithell of the strong British 49er squad performance this season.
Sterritt said he and Peters could be happy with their silver.
“We were saying on the sail in, to be in a position where you’re battling for gold and silver is a good place to be. Obviously it didn’t quite go our way today, but we’re happy with a silver and we gave it a good go out there. Congratulations to Dylan and Stu.”
Podium Potential squad talents Chris Taylor-Sam Batten also qualified for the ten-boat medal race, finishing ninth overall.
Saturday was the penultimate day of racing for the Laser, Laser Radial and 470 classes, and the opportunity for sailors to book their spots amongst the top ten in each fleet for Sunday’s medal races.
Light winds dictated that just one race was possible for each class, but the British Sailing Team will see five boats in action on the final day, with two currently occupying podium positions.
Luke Patience-Chris Grube are in equal second on points going into the 470 Men’s finale, picking up a fourth place in their only race of the day, while Lorenzo Chiavarini’s 11th place on Saturday sees him into the Laser medal in bronze position, which he’ll look to vigorously defend on Sunday with silver out of reach and just one point separating him from fourth.
Michael Beckett and Nick Thompson have also qualified for the Laser final, in sixth and seventh places respectively, while Alison Young has made the cut for the Laser Radial medal race in ninth.
Schedule for Sunday 22 October (times are local JPN, +8 BST):
Laser Radial medal race – 1040
Laser medal race – 1125
470 Women – 1210
470 Men – 1255
RS:X Men - 1340
World Cup Gamagori results