Britain’s 49er sailors shot out of the blocks on the opening day of World Cup Series Enoshima as racing got underway at the Tokyo 2020 sailing venue.
The men’s high performance skiff class kicked off six days of action across the ten Olympic classes – and Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell made their intentions clear by streaking to victory in the regatta’s very first race.
Fletcher and Bithell followed up with a second and a fourth to end day one in pole position in the 27-strong fleet.
Fellow Brits James Peters and Fynn Sterritt, continuing their rise to form after months of injury-enforced absence, also excelled in the breezy conditions of Enoshima Bay to go into day two in third overall.
The 49er pairings’ success was echoed across several fleets: Rio 2016 gold medallist Giles Scott leads the Finn class on his return to action after four months out, while Michael Beckett sits top in the Laser class.
“It’s great to see the Brits at the top – it proves our training out here in Enoshima has paid off,” said Bithell.
“We’ve all done a lot of training here so to get out there and get some proper racing was really good. We had some great races and we were working nicely.”
Fletcher added: “We’ve seen the sorts of conditions we had today out here before, and we just seemed sharp and in sync with the shifts. It was nice to be super-competitive and at the front of the fleet all day.”
For Peters a solid opening day is a welcome boost as he and Sterritt compete in only their second major regatta since January.
“We’re really happy with the day and we have to carry it on into the rest of the regatta,” he said. “We can take confidence from the fact that we’re starting well, making good decisions and that the boat is moving quickly through the water. As a team it feels like we’re clicking.”
Scott has not competed in his Finn since April due to other sailing commitments but proved he’s not lost any ground on his rivals, finishing the day ahead thanks to a sixth followed by a race win.
“It’s great to be back,” he said. “It’s great to put a solid step forward on day one – to get decent races in early on is really good.
“But the points are close and there’s an awfully long way to go. Looking at the forecast it looks like it’s going to get trickier as the week progresses.”
Beijing 2008 bronze medallist Bryony Shaw is knocking on the door of the women’s RS:X podium in fourth overall thanks to a trio of top-five results, while young gun Emma Wilson sits seventh.
Olympic champion Hannah Mills and crew Eilidh McInytre also lie fourth thanks to a race win in the women’s 470 opener followed by an eighth.
In the Laser Radial Britain has two sailors in the top ten – Hannah Snellgrove in fifth and Ali Young in seventh.
Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey end day one in fourth in the 49er FX, four places above world and European championship bronze medallists Sophie Weguelin and Sophie Ainsworth.
Nacra 17 duo John Gimson and Anna Burnet also finish the opening day in the top ten, sitting ninth after three races in prime foiling conditions.
Ben Saxton and Nikki Boniface chosen to pull out of the regatta after Boniface picked up an injury.
World Cup Series Enoshima runs until Sunday September 16, with medal racing on the final two days.
Follow all the action on the British Sailing Team’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts – and post your messages to the team using the hashtag #rulethewaves.
The medal races will be streamed live at www.britishsailingteam.com.