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Silver for Sills in dramatic Olympic circuit opener

by British Sailing Team 31 Jan 10:39 GMT 23-28 January 2023
Sam Sills dominated the opening round of the iQFOiL Games in Lanzarote © Sailing Energy / iQFOiL Class

British windsurfer Sam Sills scooped a silver medal in a thrilling finale to the first Olympic class regatta of 2023.

Sills, 29, from Launceston in Cornwall, dominated the opening round of the iQFOiL Games in Lanzarote but had to settle for second after losing out to Poland's Pawel Tarnowski in a dramatic winner-takes-all medal race.

Sills earned an automatic spot in the event finale having won nine of the 15 races, but the racing format of the iQFOiL class - which will make its debut at Paris 2024 - sees the top three riders go head-to-head on equal standings to determine the final podium positions.

Combined with the incredible speeds of the iQFOiL windsurfers the format makes for tense and exciting viewing - but for the athletes the jeopardy is highly increased.

In an incredible chain of events, Sills and Tarnowski were neck and neck as they hurtled towards the finish, before both crashed just metres short of the line.

Tarnowski was quickest to get back up on his board, crossing the line to take first place and the event win.

Frenchman Nicolas Goyard, the third athlete in the race, also passed Sills but in a show of sportsmanship stopped short of the line to allow Sills to take silver.

"It was so intense," said Sills, who was competing in a medal race for the first time. "Everything happened so fast, it's honestly still a blur. I think it's going to take me a bit of time to process, but it was very extreme, very intense and a lot of fun."

Sills, who lives in Portland, Dorset, home of the British Sailing Team, said he was happy to have made the podium in his first outing of 2023, a crucial year for the British Sailing Team as it looks to pick its squad for Paris 2024.

"It's amazing to be in this position with just a year and a half until the Olympics," Sills added.

"This result is another stepping stone towards the goal of an Olympic gold medal in Paris, and I'm just going to keep pushing hard. This result feels like a very special moment in my career and I'll look back on it with a lot of happy memories."

There were notable British performances across the fleets.

Scottish athlete Andy Brown made it to the quarter finals in the 84-strong men's fleet, finishing 10th overall, while Sills' fellow Cornishman Finn Hawkins was 18th.

In the women's fleet fellow Scot Islay Watson was seventh, British Sailing Squad athlete Alice Read from Oxford was 13th and Saskia Sills, Sam's sister, came home 18th from 66 athletes.

The British Sailing Team will field athletes in the Lanzarote International Regatta later this month before turning its attention to the Princess Sofia Regatta in early April.

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