British Sailing Team duo Dylan Fletcher and Stuart
Bithell have defended their World Cup Series Miami title following a dramatic
medal race in breezy conditions.
The pair, the current 49er world and European
champions, got their 2018 campaign off to a flying start with victory at the
regatta, the second of four World Cup dates in the run-up to the year's main
event, the Hempel Sailing World Championships.
Despite leading the fleet by three points going
into Saturday's double-points medal race, competition was so tight at the top
that a podium place far from guaranteed.
Botín le Chever and Iago López Marra, Fletcher
and Bithell's main threat for gold, got the better start and led the ten-boat
fleet round the course at speeds of more than 20 knots as a fresh breeze blew
through Biscayne Bay.
As the race reached its climax, Fletcher and
Bithell found themselves in third place behind the Spanish crew and Austrian
crew Benjamin Bildstein and David Hussl.
Had the race finished in that order the British
pair would have had to settle for silver - but on crossing the line they
found out that the Austrians had been over the line at the start, handing
them maximum points.
That put Fletcher and Bithell ahead by just a
single point - and meant they retained the title they won at the 2017 event.
was wicked fun out there - sunshine, big breeze, flat water... What more
could you ask for?" a beaming Fletcher said after returning to shore
"We didn't actually know we'd won until our coach came up to us
at the end of the race and told us. We had our suspicions that the Austrians
were over at the start but we knew we had to race them hard right until the
win gives Fletcher and Bithell the perfect start to the year following on
from a successful 2017 that saw them win the 49 world and European
championships and numerous other medals.
not done too much sailing in the build-up to Miami so we came here without
any big expectations, but we worked really hard in training and came out and
delivered," added Bithell, a silver medallist in the 470 class at London
Weguelin and Sophie Ainsworth narrowly missed out on a podium spot in the
49er FX class, finishing fourth overall, while in the Nacra 17 there was
heartbreak for John Gimson and Anna Burnet as they slipped from second to
Rashley and Laura Marimon came runners up in the Nacra 17 medal race to
finish sixth overall, Rupert White and Kirstie Urwin got seventh and Ben
Saxton and Katie Dabson finished eighth.
Squires rounded off an impressive performance in Miami with a win in the
men's RS:X medal race to finish fourth overall, while a ninth in the women's
RS:X gave Emma Wilson tenth overall.
second round of medal races will take place today (Sunday 28 January) and
will see more British athletes in contention for medals.
2016 gold medallist Giles Scott has an almost unassailable 19-point lead in
the Finn class in his first World Cup event since the Olympics, while in the
men's 470 Luke Patience and Chris Grube are 17 points ahead.
women's 470 pairing Amy Seabright and Anna Carpenter will start their medal
race in fifth overall, with hopes of a medal still alive.
Tom Burton is uncatchable at the top of the Laser fleet but current European
champion Nick Thompson will begin the medal race in second, one point ahead
of German rival Philipp Buhl.
string of race wins has propelled Alison Young to the top of the leaderboard
in the Laser Radial fleet, and she goes into the medal race with a five-point
buffer over Belgian Emma
medal races will be streamed live on Facebook and Youtube. Follow @britishsailing on Twitter for updates throughout