British windsurfer Saskia Sills scored her first ever senior medal today, winning silver in a nail-biting finish to World Cup Series final in Marseille, France, while John Gimson and Anna Burnet took silver in the Nacra 17.
Sills, 22, was impressive throughout the week-long regatta held at the Paris 2024 sailing venue, only finishing outside the top ten in the women’s RS:X ten-race series once.
The former youth world champion from Launceston, Cornwall, went into Saturday’s medal race – a double-points battle between the top ten sailors – in second place, 11 points behind Dutch world and European champion Lilian de Geus and four ahead of Italy’s Flavia Tartaglini.
A tricky start saw her drop to tenth while fourth-placed Israeli rival Katy Spychakov took the lead, relegating Sills from the overall podium spots.
But in an incredible turn of fortune British team mate Emma Wilson overhauled Spychakov to win the race, while a last-gasp dash for the finish line saw Sills pass Rio 2016 bronze medallist Stefania Elfutina into ninth.
The last-minute change in results promoted Sills back to the runner-up position behind de Geus, with third place going to Tartaglini.
Not only was it Sills’ first international medal at senior level, it was the first time she has ever made it into a medal race at a World Sailing regatta.
“It still hasn’t quite sunk in,” said an elated Sills. “I’m so happy. This whole year I’ve been looking up at the results sheets at all the girls at the top, wishing I could be as good as them just for one race. To get a silver medal when they’re all in the fleet feels amazing.
“Bryony and Emma are such incredible athletes and I’ve felt for a long time that I’m incredibly privileged to be able to train with them, but now it’s like I’ve earned my place alongside them. When all three of us finish in the top ten we know we’re in a good place.”
Poignantly Sills’ breakthrough result comes just two years after she underwent surgery for compartment syndrome following years of competing in pain.
“Exactly two years ago after this regatta I made the decision that I wasn’t going to sail with an injury any longer and went home to have forearm surgery,” she added. “Two years later I’m here again at the Paris 2024 venue, after all the work that’s been put into getting me back to strength, and I’ve won a silver medal. It’s a massive confidence boost.”
In the mixed Nacra 17 class, Gimson and Burnet picked up where they left off at the class European Championships in Weymouth and Portland last month when they claimed the runner-up spot.
Despite a startline tussle with Italian leaders Vittorio Bissaro and Maelle Frascari, the pair were able to cross the medal race finish line in sixth, securing silver and continuing their fine run of form in 2019.
“The World Cup final was an awesome chance to come and race against some in a world class fleet before the test event, and check in on some different equipment and techniques,” said Gimson.
“We are happy to come away with a medal but feel we left a number of points behind us on the race course. This really has cemented what we need to work on during our training over the coming weeks in Japan.
“We are really starting to wind up our campaign towards the pointed end of the cycle and to win a medal in a regatta we feel frustrated with is hopefully a good sign.”
Rio 2016 gold medallist Hannah Mills and crew Eilidh McIntyre will look to take World Cup Series finals gold for the third year running when they take on the women’s 470 medal race tomorrow.
The pair start the medal race in first with a one-point lead over France’s Camille Lecointre and Aloise Retornaz.
Tune in to www.britishsailingteam.com from 11am to watch the action live, or follow on our social media channels.