Lee-on-the-Solent star Alain Sign goes into today’s 49er European Championships as defending champion – but in addition to a third Euro crown, he and race partner Dylan Fletcher have another objective in their sights.
Sign and Fletcher claimed their first European title at the same Helsinki venue three years ago, and repeated the feat last year in Aarhus, Denmark.
But on both occasions they were pipped to the overall Open event victory by Antipodean rivals, and they are keen to secure an outright win this time around.
‘It’s going to be tough but, ideally, we’d like to go one better than before and win the overall event as well as the European title,’ said helmsman Fletcher.
‘For sure, our build-up has gone quite well and we’re feeling good.’
The duo come into the Finnish regatta having already this year secured World Cup series bronze in Palma and EUROSAF event gold in Holland.
And while their main goal is a World Championship gold in September, they are hoping to put down a marker in the ferociously-competitive skiff fleet.
‘We’ve got really good memories from Helsinki,’ said Fletcher.
‘We had a good time last time and it was quite a close battle for the gold with the Australians Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen.
‘I think we went into the medal race on equal points with them, but were over the line which was a bit of an error, but it was a good week for us.
‘All the good guys are here, and although the Europeans are not as important as the worlds for us this year, the competition will be right up there.
‘So, obviously, it will be good to try to get another medal and ideally come home with the win and take down the Kiwis, Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, who keep winning.’
The Burling and Outteridge teams have won the past five world championships between them so are clearly the ones to beat, though a strong GBR contingent will aim to give them a run for their money in the 83-strong fleet.
Among them are Portsmouth’s John Pink, racing with former 470 world champion Stuart Bithell, and Dave Evans-Ed Powys – all of whom have had a strong season.
The women’s 49erFX European Championships will be held concurrently, with Hayling Island’s Frances Peters and Nicola Groves heading into the event as bronze medallists from 2013 at what was the inaugural European Championship for the new women’s skiff class for Rio.
The world-ranked number three pairing started the year well with a bronze at the Miami World Cup, but struggled at the next two stages in Palma and Hyeres due to injury, and will be keen to make an impression in the 50-boat fleet.