Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell kicked off their 2019 season with 49er class silver at World Cup Series Miami on Saturday – while team mates Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey claimed bronze in the 49er FX.
Fletcher, who represented Britain at the Rio Olympics, and Bithell, a silver medallist from London 2012, went into the opening medal race of the 2019 Olympic classes calendar in the runner-up spot but well within reach of victory.
The pair, who won in Miami in 2017 and 2018, were dealt an early blow when they were among five boats judged to have been over the start line when the race began.
Fletcher and Bithell were forced to turn back and restart the race, putting them at the back of the fleet.
However the remaining four boats, including fellow Brits James Peters and Fynn Sterritt, opted not to turn back and were handed maximum points for the race.
For Peters and Sterritt that meant an end to their medal hopes, and a fifth place finish overall. For Fletcher and Bithell, with just six boats now racing, it all but guaranteed them the silver medal.
Third in the medal race secured overall victory for Germans Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessal, with Fletcher and Bithell finishing in the runner-up spot. World champions Sime and Mihovil Fantela of Italy claimed bronze.
“It was a difficult situation for us today with the German team coming after us,” Fletcher said. “We had a game plan – unfortunately we were over the line but age and wisdom has taught us to go back. After that the results were set and we had to settle for silver. It’s a great start to the 2019 season leaving us hungry for gold as we progress to the European regattas.”
In the 49er FX class, Dobson and Tidey went into the medal race in third with fellow Brits Sophie Weguelin and Sophie Ainsworth in fourth.
The fickle, light winds of Biscayne Bay starting crucial, and while Dobson and Tidey got a clear lane, Weguelin and Ainsworth got held up among the pack of boats clamouring for their own breeze.
Dobson and Tidey’s fourth was enough to secure bronze, while eighth gave Weguelin and Ainsworth sixth overall.
Dobson said: “We had nothing to lose and everything to gain going into today’s race, so the strategy was to try to win the start and assess the points situation at the top mark. We were second round the first mark with everything going to plan but the race got quite affected by some massive wake from pleasure boaters and stray yachts which cut the fleet up quite badly.
“We were really pleased that we just kept chipping away but it wasn’t quite enough to pip the kiwis who were struggling. All in all it was another good light wind performance is really encouraging.”
Olympic champions Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze took the 49er FX top spot, snatching it from Kiwis Alex Maloney and Molly Meach on the run-in to the finish.
Britain’s John Gimson and Anna Burnet came within a whisker of scooping a medal in the Nacra 17 class, but had to settle for fourth overall behind Australia’s Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin, Samuel Albrecht and Gabriela Nicolino de Sa from Brazil and Santi Lange and Cecilia Carranza Saroli from Argentina.
“It’s been a real light winds week and we’re happy to have put together a consistent series in some unpredictable conditions,” Burnet said. “We’ve had a lot of training in stronger winds over the winter and we’re feeling strong in those conditions. It’s actually been great for us to have a regatta in light winds as it’s the perfect training at this stage of the season.”
In the women’s RS:X neither Emma Wilson nor Bryony Shaw could win a medal but both were out to prove a point. Wilson came home with a fourth in the medal race to finish ninth overall, one place ahead of Shaw who was ruled over the line at the start of the medal race.
Elsewhere Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre will start Sunday’s women’s 470 medal race in the runner-up spot just three points off first, while in the Laser Radial Ali Young will start the medal race in fourth. Lorenzo Chiavarini will start the Laser medal race in eighth overall but out of reach of the medals.
Watch all of Sunday’s action LIVE on the British Sailing Team website from 5pm UK time.