Bithell and Fletcher set to defend European title

Bithell and Fletcher set to defend European title
By Sportsbeat

06/07/2018 at 22:31

British 49er crew Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell are hoping for the perfect warm-up to this year's Sailing World Championships by defending their European title in Gdynia, Poland.

The week-long regatta begins on Sunday, and is their final race ahead of the World Championships in Denmark later this summer, which they also go into as reigning champions.

The pair – ranked number one in the world - enter the Europeans in impressive form after recently winning gold and silver at the 2018 World Cup Series Miami and Princess Sofia Trophy in Palma respectively.

"The Europeans is always an important regatta and one we very much want to win, but ultimately the main goals this year are the Sailing World Championships in Aarhus and the first Tokyo 2020 test event," said Fletcher.

"The Europeans is a great stepping stone to those events so we can gauge how our training has gone, how we're looking against the other top teams and whether we need to make any last-minute tweaks."

"It's our first event for a while – we've been concentrating a lot on training in Weymouth," added Bithell. "We're looking forward to getting out there and trying to regain our title."

And there is further British interest in the 49er event in the form of Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey, who were silver medallists at last year's European Championships.

"The Europeans is the first major Championships of the year, and it's time for us to put together all the things we've learned so far this season," said Dobson.

"We went right back to basics in many areas so we're looking forward now to tying it all together in the run up to the World Championships.

"So far the weather has been scorching and the offshore wind incredibly unstable, so it is shaping up for a really difficult Championship, but we are ready to try and improve on the silver we won here last year."

Elsewhere, Ben Saxton – bronze medallist in the 2017 Europeans – and his crew Nikki Boniface are taking a slightly different approach.

"We're going there to race and we're not going to walk away with the excuse that we're only focusing on the Worlds," said Saxton.

"There's a bit of pressure to perform – It's nice to do well and we can't kid ourselves that we're not there to win."

They will be up against compatriots, and recent Kiel Week bronze medallists, John Gimson and Anna Burnet in the Nacra 17 competition, with 20 British racers in total competing in the Championships.

Racing starts on Sunday, with medal races taking place next Friday, 13 July.

Sportsbeat 2018