Sailing: Stuart Bithell wins Gold at the European Championships
Date published: 22 May 2019
Photo: Nick Dempsey/RYA
Dylan Fletcher and Stu Bithell claim European Gold in the 49er class
Britain’s elite sailors Stuart Bithell and Dylan Fletcher scooped the European gold and silver on home waters at Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy on Sunday (19 May).
Fletcher and Bithell’s title was confirmed when the wind disappeared before the 49er medal race could be held.
The duo actually finished second overall behind reigning Olympic champions Pete Burling and Blair Tuke, but the New Zealand team’s result doesn’t count in the European standings.
Bithell, 32, from Rochdale, who won a silver medal in the 470 at London 2012 with Luke Patience, added: “It was a bit deflating that we couldn’t fight with the Kiwi lads in the medal race but at the end of the day we’re the European champions and we’re stoked about that.”
Fletcher, 31, from Thames Ditton, Surrey, who represented Team GB at the 2016 Rio Olympics, said: “We’re very happy with how we sailed, especially given our preparation for the event. We came here straight from competing in Sail GP in San Francisco and we were really warmed up for this regatta.”
Up until late 2016, Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell were rivals on the water. Four years earlier, Bithell won silver in the 470 class alongside Luke Patience at London 2012, but by 2015 he was fighting Fletcher for a place at Rio 2016 in the 49er class.
It was a battle Fletcher and his then-crew Alain Sign won; Bithell was forced to accept defeat and watch the Games, at which Fletcher finished sixth, from the comfort of home.
Back on the waters of Weymouth, the pair were racing one another in foiling Moth dinghies when they had a lightbulb moment: why not team up for a tilt at Tokyo 2020?
Within a year Fletcher and Bithell had become a force to be reckoned with, announcing their arrival on the circuit in 2017 with stunning wins in the 49er European and world championships.
Currently ranked number one in the world, the duo have their sights firmly set on gold at Tokyo 2020.
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