Britain’s sailors claimed two world championships medals in Geelong, Australia, with John Gimson and Anna Burnet crowned 2020 Nacra 17 world champions.
Gimson and Burnet’s gold medal capped an astonishing final day of racing for the multihull sailors before 49erFX duo Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey added a silver medal to the British haul.
Heading into the final double points medal race, Gimson and Burnet had to overcome a 16-point deficit to leaders Nathan and Haylee Outteridge of Australia, but could also have fallen out of the medals altogether.
But with the two-time Olympic medallist caught up in a battle with rivals Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin, Gimson and Burnet took full advantage and streaked ahead to win the medal race.
All the pair could do then was sit and wait to see where both Australian teams would cross the line. And with their rivals back in the pack in seventh and ninth, the championship was theirs by a single point.
Gimson, 36, from Congleton, Cheshire, said: “I’m a bit speechless to be honest. We had to go out and win the final race to give ourselves a chance and in the end all the cards just fell in to place for us.”
“The points were tight and we were just looking at the team in front and the team behind us,” said Burnet, 26, from Shandon, Scotland. “We did what we could and won the race and just had to sit and wait to see where the Aussies crossed the line. When they finally crossed someone shouted over to us that we had won, and that was that.”
Things could have been different for the pair when in the penultimate race of the championships a broken tiller extension just moments before the start meant a quick fix and an alternative sailing technique. But cool heads and strong sailing kept them within a shot of a medal going into the final race, and the rest is history.
The win caps an incredible few weeks for the pair as they became the latest additions to Team GB for the Tokyo 202 Olympic Games following an intense selection battle with compatriots Ben Saxton and Nikki Boniface.
In the 49erFX, Dobson and Tidey were a model of consistency throughout the week with a string of top three finishes.
The only team that could stay with the British pair were Spain’s Tamara Echegoyen and Paula Barcelo and with a 40-point gap back to bronze it was a straight medal race shoot-out between the top two.
Unfortunately, an untimely error and a capsize meant the gold medal had slipped to the advantage of the Spanish, but they were safe in the knowledge a silver world championship medal was theirs no matter what.
“First reaction is we are a little disappointed we couldn’t have taken it to the Spanish a little better in the medal race. But on the whole we have sailed a really good regatta,” said Dobson.
“What’s really encouraging for us is the day we separated ourselves from the fleet was on a sub-max power day which has been our real weakness. It’s something we have been focusing on and it’s a real highlight to see our improvement in those conditions. But today, it was close but no cigar.”
2019 World Championships bronze medallists Dylan Fletcher and Stu Bithell finished their regatta in eighth place after coming home in third in the final medal race.
Bithell, 33, Rochdale, Greater Manchester, said: “It’s not our finest hour to be honest. We are doing some things really well which is promising, but there is no question we have work to do in the coming months to prepare for the Olympics. We will leave Geelong with fire in a belly and some clear areas of focus.”
Bithell and helm Fletcher are also confirmed in Team GB for the Tokyo 2020 Games alongside Gimson and Burnet, and Dobson and Tidey.
Across Port Philip the British Laser sailors are in action with the final day of racing tomorrow. Elliot Hanson leads the British charge sitting in fourth overall with three races scheduled.
Joining Hanson in the gold fleet are Michael Beckett who sits 11th, former world champion Nick Thompson in 14th and European champion Lorenzo Chiavarini in 25th
Results for the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 Worlds will be published here
Results for the Laser Worlds will be published here