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Allen 2017 August 728x90

Fletcher and Bithell seal 49er gold as GBR claim four European medals

by Anisha Walkerley, RYA on 4 Aug 27 July - 4 August 2017

The British Sailing Team secured four medals across three classes as racing drew to a close at the 49er, 49er FX and Nacra 17 Europeans in Kiel, Germany today (4 August).

With three theatre style races scheduled for the European finale, it was high drama as heavy winds tore across the race course.

History was made in the Nacra 17 fleet as the first ever fully foiling European champions were confirmed. It was not all plain sailing as a tough first race saw Ben Saxton and Katie Dabson at the back of the pack, before coming back fighting to take the final two bullets and with it seal the bronze medal.

Saxton commented: "We went into the three races in bronze with everything really tight in front and behind. The first race was going alright, although I don't know how we didn't capsize at the windward mark! We were last in that race, then we finished off with a 1,1 to take bronze, really close to the medals in front too so really happy."

Dabson, who first stepped into the Nacra for June's World Cup Final where the pair also secured bronze, was thrilled at their early foiling success.

"It's pretty cool, I'm really happy – you can't ask for much more than that from my first event foiling event and only second ever Nacra event!"

Saxton explained their strengths in the foiling fleet: "We had eight boats in the final races, I think in the middle race six boats finished within 10 seconds so that was really cool.

"I think it plays to our strength with it being so close because we're really good at the tactical decisions and speed. We just need to turn the corners round the short course, so if we can get that done we're off!"

Fellow Brits Tom Phipps-Nikki Boniface took the bullet in the first medal race, with John Gimson-Anna Burnet second, to see them place fifth and sixth overall. Chris Rashley-Laura Marimon wrapped up their week eighth.

Next up saw the 49er FX fleet take to the race course as Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey started the day with the blue jerseys. With the breeze building and capsizes throughout the 10-boat fleet, racing was called to a halt and the final race cancelled leaving the first two races to decide the medals.

Skiff duo Dobson and Tidey held their nerve to score 8,5 and with it secured silver at their first European Championship together.

Dobson described the day: "Today was very wet and windy, we ended up doing two medal races in super windy, shifty and gusty conditions which made it more of a boat-handling race, but we managed to muscle our way the course!"

Despite not being able to upgrade to a gold medal, Tidey was pleased with their event.

"We can't not be proud of ourselves to come here and be on the podium. Obviously today we were going out there to win the gold, but there's plenty more time for that and we've got the Worlds coming up and another chance to prove we're up there."

Teammates Kate Macgregor-Sophie Ainsworth and Sophie Weguelin-Stephanie Orton finished 12th and 16th respectively, and will joining the bronze medallists at the 49er FX Worlds in Porto later this month.

With the wind showing no sign of tempering, the 49er medal racing was not to be, meaning overnight positions would stand. After fighting back to the top after a challenging penultimate day of racing, Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell were crowned champions. Meanwhile teammates James Peter and Fynn Sterritt took European silver, finishing third overall.

European Champion Bithell felt bittersweet not to get the chance to race: "The weather didn't allow us to race, a bit unfortunate but as a result of that we took the victory overall so very happy with that."

Fletcher continued: "The racing has been really close all week especially with the qualifying points being halved, we had a nice advantage.

"It ended up with just one point between us and Dave Gilmore-Joel Turner (AUS), so it was super close. The win in the last race yesterday put us into the lead so were stoked to do that!"

In another historical moment, the event honours were won by a European crew for the first time in recent years so the pair were pleased to have the title back in 'European hands'.

European silver medallist Peters added: "Unfortunately no racing today, but we're really happy with third overall and European silver medal, we're really, really happy with that.

"We've had an up-and-down week, we were both hoping to be on the podium," explained Sterritt. "It started off with some really tricky conditions here, but we bounced back from the first difficult day with two firsts and a third which put us right back in the mix.

"It's been classic Kiel offshore winds, difficult conditions, hard to predict and we've just kept ourselves in the game the whole week."

Sterritt concluded: "We were seven points off the top in the end and unfortunately we didn't get to race the medal races, but Dylan and Stu the overall winners did a great job and it's good to be on the podium with our teammates."

Young guns Jack Hawkins-Chris Thomas, counting a string of top five results, wrapped up their regatta 11th ahead of Chris Taylor-Sam Batten in 12th.

For full 49er and FX results visit 49er.org/event/2017-european-championship and full Nacra 17 results nacra17.org/events/2017-european-championship.

For all the latest news from the British Sailing Team, follow us at www.britishsailingteam.com, on Facebook, on Twitter @BritishSailing and on Instagram @BritishSailing.

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