Amy Seabright and James Taylor won bronze in the first ever mixed 470 World Championships – as Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre narrowly missed out on a podium spot following an epic comeback in the women’s fleet.
Seabright and Taylor notched up five top-five finishes on their way to securing their podium spot in the new 470 class format for the Paris 2024 Olympics.
At the midway point they even led the regatta in Vilamoura, Portugal, but were overtaken by eventual winners Gil Cohen and Noam Homri from Israel going into the ten-boat double-points medal race.
Sixth in the medal race for Seabright and Taylor allowed second Israeli crew Tal Sade and Noa Lasry to sneak into silver medal position.
Britain had four crews finish in the top half of the fleet, with Freya Black and Marcus Tressler finishing fifth, Vita Heathcote and Ryan Orr in eighth and Georgina Povall and Arran Holman in ninth.
“It’s exciting to win a medal in the first mixed worlds, a small taste of what the next three years will be like,” said Seabright, from Stapleford Abbots, Essex. “It’s James’s and my first event we have managed to actually complete so really proud that we managed to push through some tougher light and shifty days to keep in the mix for a medal. We’re a bit annoyed we let the Israelis slip through to silver in the medal race, but the points in the top eight were so tight it was hard to keep track of everyone, especially in conditions that were constantly changing.”
Taylor, from Stoke Poges, Bucks, added: “It’s a great feeling to get off to a good start in the new mixed fleet for the Paris 2024 cycle. We made a fair few mistake and left a few too many points out there but to get back onto the podium in the medal race was awesome. It’s a new fleet so we’re only just getting to know how everyone races, so we’re looking forward to the next three years.”
2019 world champions Mills and McIntyre had a tough start to their title defence, finding themselves in the bottom half of the 27-boat fleet at the midway stage of the six-day regatta.
But the pair proved their class with a comeback that saw them jump to fourth on the back of a string of top five results including three wins on the bounce on the penultimate day.
With bronze within their reach, Mills and McIntyre looked like they would complete their comeback as they approached the finish line of the medal race in second place.
Disaster then struck when the pair were penalised by the on-water umpires, then punished further for not completing a penalty spin, relegating them to seventh across the line and fifth overall.
Despite not finishing on the podium, Mills said she and McIntyre would learn from their mistakes going into the final few months before Tokyo 2020.
“It was a real week of two halves for us,” Mills, from Cardiff, said. “There were a few key bits missing the first half of the week which at this level in sport means you are going to be struggling. We recognised what was happening and managed to correct it for the second half of the week, giving us a fighting chance to grab a medal going into the medal race. Obviously we’re disappointed not to get a medal, but so much learnt from each day this week that will be invaluable moving forward towards Tokyo.”
In the men’s fleet Team GB sailors Luke Patience and Chris Grube came back from a tricky start to finish strongly with a string of top five finishes, claiming 13th overall. Teammates Martin Wrigley and Alex Hughes were 19th.
The RS:X European Championships, also held in Vilamoura over the same dates, saw Britain’s Emma Wilson finish fifth overall, just three points off the podium, while in the men’s fleet Tom Squires came home 21st.
“It was a tricky week,” said Wilson, from Christchurch, Dorset. “I struggled a bit at the start with a few mistakes off the start line but then the second half of the regatta I worked it out a bit better and managed to use my speed. I am happy with how I managed to pull some places back and finishing just off the podium again. It’s given me some good things to work on between now and the worlds which are at the end of April in Cadiz.”