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Group 4 Securicor 9er Championships at Weymouth - Overall

by Myrrh Walker, RYA 30 Jul 2006 00:03 BST 22-29 July 2006

Great Britain and Finland take on golden glow

The final day of racing at the Group 4 Securicor 9er Championships saw Great Britain's Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes crowned 49er European Champions and Finland's Silja Lehtinen and Australian crew Scott Babbage turn their lead into solid 29er gold at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy.

With 10 knots to a gusty 25 knots on the course, the 49er gold fleet took to the harbour this morning to battle it out for a place in the afternoon's medal race. There was one last shake-up and the top ten slots changed hands once again, with several boats including Skandia Team GBR's John Pink and Alex Hopson getting squeezed out by single points.

In a dramatic medal race, Spanish sailors Iker Martinez and Xabier Fernandez lead around the first mark, extended their advantage throughout the race and secured first. Chris Draper and Simon Hiscocks rounded the first mark in fifth but kept their boat fast and made up places, finishing in second with the Sibello brothers from Italy taking third.

However, Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes also remained at the top of the fleet earning a fourth place, enough to secure the Brits a gold medal on overall score. Morrison-Rhodes will now add this gold medal to their bronze from the 2006 World Championships held in June.

"We're chuffed to bits. A medal at each of the major class championships so far this year is a great accomplishment, so we're really happy." Morrison explained. "We haven't been as consistent as we usually can be, but we sailed well this week, continually knocking on the door of the top slots."

Rhodes was also positive about their experience at the Europeans. "We're finally getting some of the top results and are counting firsts and seconds from this event. We're making progress and are hoping to keep it going."

Morrison concluded, "It's been great to sail here in Weymouth and to such a high profile event in the UK."

In the 29er fleet Silja Lehtinen and Scott Babbage stood at the top of the podium as world champions after stretching their lead to a golden victory. The pair have spent the last few days at the top the rankings and have continued to distance themselves from the rest of the fleet.

The silver and bronze medals were decided in the protest room, when American sailors Cameron Biehl and Matt Noble took British youth sailors Dylan Fletcher and Rob Partridge to the jury room for hitting a mark in the final race. After hearing each side, the jury threw out the protest giving Fletcher-Partridge the silver medal and Biehl-Noble taking the bronze.

As the first place finishing youth boat, Draycote's Fletcher and Waverham's Partridge have also been crowned 29er Youth World Champions, along with Anglesey's Huw Humphreys and Max Todd who take a 29er Youth Worlds silver medal.

"It's been an exception event," Julian Bethwaite from Bethwaite Designs who are behind the 29er and 49er skiff designs said. "It's been great both in terms of the weather and with the number of boats we've seen here. This is the biggest congregation of 9ers we've ever had and it's just been wonderful."

For full results, go to 49er results and 29er results.