British Sailing Team athletes Sophie Weguelin and Sophie Ainsworth say they’ve not yet hit their peak after scooping bronze at the 49er FX class European Championships.
The duo only joined forces for a tilt at Tokyo 2020 earlier this year and have already notched up some impressive results on the international circuit, but their European result is their best to date.
After a strong start, Weguelin and Ainsworth remained in the top three for the majority of the week-long regatta in Gdynia, Poland.
With points incredibly tight at the top of the table, they went into the double points-scoring medal race with a shot of moving up from third to second overall.
But after getting tangled in a scrap with fourth-placed Julia Gross and Hanna Klinga of Sweden they finished seventh in the medal race, while second-placed rivals Victoria Jurczok and Anika Lorenz from Germany took the spoils.
Weguelin and Ainsworth finished on equal points with the German duo but had to settle for third place overall on countback. The win went to Helene Naess and Marie Ronningen of Norway.
With the biggest event in the 2018 sailing calendar – the Sailing World Championships – just two weeks away, they say they can still improve before their next battle against the best racers in the world.
“We’re really happy to have won a medal,” said Ainsworth, who represented Great Britain at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
“We’ve had a lot of fun racing this week. We’ve put in a lot of hard work and it’s nice to see we’re going in the right direction but we know we have a lot more to do.
“It’s been really good practice for the world championships, staying within the top three all week.
“We’ve had to deal with a little more pressure and a few more nerves, which I’m sure we will feel at the worlds. Our secret was that we made sure we were always enjoying it!”
Current 49er world champions Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell couldn’t defend the gold medal they won at last year’s European championships but an impressive comeback saw them also finish third overall.
Finishing on a high, Fletcher and Bithell stormed to victory in the medal race to end the regatta just one point behind silver medallists Dominik Buksak and Szymon Wierzbicki of Poland, and six behind new champions Diego Botin and Iago Lopez from Spain.
“It was a tough regatta for us,” Fletcher said, “but a great learning tool ahead of the world championships this summer.
There were some weaknesses highlighted on what we need to improve on which is always hard to learn during racing but it will put us in better shape going forward
“We knew we needed to go out and win the medal race to be within a shot of a medal and it was great to do just that, especially after struggling in the racing in the morning.
“To come out firing and dominate the race was an awesome way to finish the regatta.”
The 49er fleet saw Jack Hawkins and Chris Thomas gain 17th place, Chris Taylor and Sam Batten were 33rd, Morgan Peach and Rhos Hawes were 44th, James Grummett and Daniel Budden were 49th while Gillies Munro and Daniel Harris were 60th.
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