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British Sailing Team's bid for Tokyo 2020 glory to get underway in Miami

by Will Carson, RYA 21 Jan 13:53 GMT 23-28 January 2018
Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell in action © Ben Rhodes

The British Sailing Team will hit the water in Miami in force this week as it kick-starts its campaign for success at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The team, which topped the sailing medal table at Rio 2016 for the fourth time in five Olympics, will field 47 of Britain's most promising racers at the second round of the four-date 2018 World Cup Series.

The Olympic Classes regatta represents the team's first major test of 2018 – and for many sailors marks the beginning of their push towards Tokyo.

It will provide a benchmark for the team following several months of hard winter training in Europe as it gears up for 2018's main event – the Hempel Sailing World Championships in Aarhus, Denmark, this summer, the first opportunity for Olympic qualification.

Among those joining the action in Miami are Rio 2016 Finn gold medallist Giles Scott, fresh from victory at Enoshima Olympic Week, and fellow reigning Olympic champion Hannah Mills, looking to build on her promising partnership with Eilidh McIntyre in the 470 Women's class.

Mills and McIntyre only joined forces last summer but scored an impressive first at the 2017 World Cup Series Final in Santander, following up a month later with silver at the 470 World Championships.

"Miami is where I begin my journey to Tokyo 2020," said Mills, who won gold in Rio alongside Saskia Clark before joining forces with McIntyre for another shot at Olympic glory.

"I can't wait to get out on the water racing with Eilidh – we did a few events last summer which gave us both confidence we can build a very strong team together. Miami is just the start of this journey and I can't wait to see what challenges, wins and defeats come along to test us."

After a year away from the Finn class to race alongside Sir Ben Ainslie in the America's Cup, Scott is also itching to get back onto the Olympic circuit.

"This is the first big event for me since Rio, and one where I can see where I'm at after a sizeable break from Finn sailing," said Scott, competing in the 29-sailor Finn class alongside British teammates Ed Wright and Ben Cornish. "It's exciting to be back on the circuit seeing new faces and some old. I'm looking forward to getting back into the racing."

Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell, the 49er World and European Champions, are back to defend the title they won in Miami last year, having claimed victory at the opening round of the 2018 World Cup Series in Gamagori, Japan, in October.

They will face a competitive 38-strong fleet which will include teammates James Peters and Fynn Sterritt, the World and European silver medallists.

"Sailing World Cup Miami is the first event in a while for us, and also the first regatta that we're coming back to as defending champions," Bithell said. "Like three other top 49er teams, injuries have affected the perfect regatta build up, but we'll use the time we have now to prepare as best we can. It's a privilege to be in Miami for the World Cup Series doing some world class racing. We want to start our 2018 off where we left 2017 – at the top."

Nacra 17 World Champions Ben Saxton and Katie Dabson will attempt to retain the title won by Saxton and Nicola Groves at the 2017 Miami event.

Nick Thompson heads into competition among the favourites in the Laser class after scooping gold at the European Championships in Barcelona in October.

Meanwhile, Beijing 2008 bronze medallist Bryony Shaw is among four sailors taking on the 36-strong RS:X Women's class.

Shaw is returning to action in the windsurfing event after giving birth to her first child last summer.

The World Cup Series Miami starts today, Sunday 21 January, with racing getting underway on Tuesday 23 January from 1100 local time (1600 GMT).

Medal races will be held on Saturday 27 January for the 49er, 49er FX, RS:X and Nacra 17 classes, and on Sunday 28 January for the Laser, Laser Radial, Finn and 470 classes.

British Sailing Team members competing at the World Cup Series Miami:

Laser Radial
Alison Young, Georgina Povall

Nick Thompson, Lorenzo Chiavarini, Elliot Hanson, Jack Wetherell, Michael Beckett

Giles Scott, Ben Cornish, Edward Wright

RS:X Women
Bryony Shaw, Emma Wilson, Saskia Sills

RS:X Men
Tom Squires, Andy Brown, Daniel Wilson, Kieran Holmes Martin

470 Women
Hannah Mills/Eilidh McIntyre, Jess Lavery/Flora Stewart, Amy Seabright/Anna Carpenter

470 Men
Luke Patience/Chris Grube, Martin Wrigley/James Taylor

Charlotte Dobson/Saskia Tidey, Sophie Weguelin/Sophie Ainsworth

Dylan Fletcher/Stuart Bithell, James Peters/Fynn Sterritt, Chris Taylor/Sam Batten, Jack Hawkins/Christopher Thomas

Nacra 17
Ben Saxton/Katie Dabson, Chris Rashley/Laura Marimon, John Gimson/Anna Burnet, Rupert White/Kirstie Urwin