Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign rounded off their 49er World Championship regatta in style on Sunday (14 February) with a medal race victory handing them bronze and their first Worlds podium finish.
The world number six-ranked duo led the final medal race in Clearwater, USA, from the outset to improve on their previous World Championship best of fourth in 2013.
But Fletcher admitted that, in spite of their stellar finish to lead the men’s skiff fleet across the line in the final race of the week, he and Sign initially thought they’d had to settle for the leather medal once again before realising that a mistake by Australian Olympic Champions Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jenson had played into their hands.
“We actually crossed the finish line and thought we’d finished fourth as Nathan [Outteridge] and the Austrians were the two boats just behind us,” said Fletcher of his key podium rivals.
“But as it happened Nathan was over the line which put us into a bronze medal position. We’re stoked, we’re really happy and can’t believe it’s really happened!”
With a fourth World Championship gold already secured ahead of the medal race by the dominant New Zealand pairing Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, the double European Champions Fletcher and Sign went into the final race in sixth place. Three ‘OK’ gold fleet races earlier in the day had put them ‘a little bit on the back foot’ going into the medal race according to Fletcher, with a nine point gap to the silver medal position in some testing race conditions.
“The sea breeze came in for us which was pretty good as it made it a bit more consistent breeze. However it was a little bit up and down,” explained Sign.
“It was pretty close racing, the startline was really short, everyone was after each other. It was exciting 49er racing!”
“We’ve been working hard for the last two or three months really trying to up our sailing a little bit and it’s finally come together this week.”
John Pink and Stuart Bithell also made the medal race cut, heading in to the final race in eighth place following a testing penultimate day on Saturday. A fourth place in the final double points medal race improved their standing one place to seventh overall.
“We sailed a good series,” Bithell surmised. “We actually just had one day, the first day of gold fleet racing where it was quite windy and we did a bad job of getting off the startline and that bit us in the bottom a little bit.
“Apart from that we’ve actually sailed some really nice races, the teamwork’s going really well and we’re posting some good results and some good catch ups.”
Sunday also saw the final day of competition in the Nacra 17 and 49erFX World Championships, both new events for Rio 2016, which were held concurrently in Clearwater.
Ben Saxton and Nicola Groves emerged as the top British duo and sixth overall after the six days of racing in the Nacra 17 mixed multihull event.
Groves was content with their regatta performance: “We’re happy with our overall result here in Clearwater and Miami. They’ve been quite good events for us. We had a wicked day yesterday which bumped us up and we had a good medal race today.”
“The fleet is definitely getting better,” added Saxton at what was only the fourth World Championship for the new Olympic class.
“The fleet’s getting pretty wily on the tactics now. Quite often you have to just roll and stick with our lanes because there is no clever option that the fleet has missed. It’s a really high level.”
British Sailing Team Podium Potential duo Tom Phipps and Nikki Boniface also made the Nacra 17 medal race cut, finishing tenth overall, while Charlotte Dobson and Sophie Ainsworth also concluded their 49erFX event in tenth place.
Having been in the mix for the podium positions earlier in the week, Dobson and Ainsworth rued a few mistakes in the gold fleet series, which meant they were out of contention for the podium spots in Sunday’s medal race.
But Dobson was keen to draw on the positives. “It’s disappointing that we did drop the ball and put ourselves with just too much to do in the medal race. But what is really, really good is the fact that we really have shown throughout the week to ourselves that we really are able to challenge for medals. We just have to be able to do it every day.”
Full results are available at http://www.saillife.com/#!results/xnacl
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