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Mills and McIntyre scoop silver in final pre-Tokyo regatta

Olympic champion Hannah Mills believes she and teammate Eilidh McIntyre have even more to give as they claimed the runner-up spot at the 470 European Championships, their last big regatta before Tokyo 2020.

The Rio 2016 gold medallist said she and McIntyre have not yet hit their full potential – and will now throw everything at hitting their peak when racing gets underway in Japan in just ten weeks.

After a solid week, 2019 world champions Mills and McIntyre went into the final double-points medal race in fourth with just a handful of points separating the top boats.

But a mistake by Spanish rivals Silvia Mas Depares and Patricia Cantero Reina, coupled with a solid third-place race finish, elevated them onto the podium behind winners Camille Lecointre and Aloise Retornaz of France.

Mills and McIntyre narrowly missed out on a podium place at last month’s world championship regatta despite an epic comeback that took them from 17th to fourth over the final few days.

Their European silver is a welcome return to the podium – but Mills said that their one goal is to deliver in Tokyo this summer.

© Joao Costa Ferreira

“After a tricky worlds, to get a medal and be on the podium again feels great,” said Mills, 33, from Cardiff.

“We had to fight hard after some mistakes at the beginning of the week, so it feels good to have bounced back. It was an intense medal race and always tricky when the wind is that light, but we had good communication and tempo in the boat.

“Ultimately Tokyo is Tokyo and we will go there to deliver our best performance. We know we’re not at our potential best yet, we still have work to do.”

Hayling Island’s McIntyre, for whom Tokyo will be the first Olympic Games, added: “It feels so good to be back on the podium.  We don’t like to make it easy for ourselves but we had a little less drama this time. We’re really excited to get the silver but big picture-wise we haemorrhaged some points early on. We’ve plenty more learning to take to Tokyo!”

In the mixed fleet, the new format for the Paris 2024 Olympics, Vita Heathcote and Ryan Orr made amends for a disappointing world championship by claiming European bronze.

“Mental toughness is a massive part of sailing at the top level, and we had to rebuild our confidence on start line after the double disqualifications at the worlds,” said Orr, 23, from Upham, Hants.

“We worked hard with our coach Jonny and the rest of the BST mixed squad to tackle this in training and pre-events. We knew it would be crucial in this event where the mixed fleet would be bigger and tougher than ever. Mistakes became more punishing in this bigger fleet, so consistency around the racecourse was everything. After a disappointment at the worlds we are really proud to make a statement in the mixed fleet – hopefully it’s the first of many.”

Heathcote and Orr celebrate. © Joao Costa Ferreira

In the men’s fleet, Martin Wrigley and Alex Hughes signed off an impressive week with their third win in 12 races to finish fifth European team and seventh overall.

The pair joined forces last year to be training partners to Team GB’s Luke Patience and Chris Grube, and finished this regatta one place ahead of the Tokyo-bound sailors.

“We’re really happy with our performance this week in what feels like a bit of a breakthrough after many years of endeavour,” said Wrigley, 24, from Hereford. “Alex and myself are really hoping to use this result as a nice way to push on to other things in the future – whatever they may be!”

Full results from the regatta can be found here.

© Joao Costa Ferreira