It was a weekend to remember for two of our local sailors at the RS:X Windsurfing, 49er and 49erFX European Championship.
Lee-on-the-Solent’s Alain Sign struck gold for Great Britain, along with Dylan Fletcher, to make it a second European title in the 49er class in Aarhus, Denmark.
And Hayling’s Frances Peters teamed up with Nicola Groves to bag bronze in the first-ever 49erFX class – the new women’s skiff introduced for the Rio 2016 cycle.
Sign and Fletcher, who claimed the European crown in 2011, went into the nine-boat race final races as the leading European crew, and were keen to not only retain that but also overhaul the New Zealand Olympic silver medallists Peter Burling and Blair Tuke at the top of the overall leaderboard.
The championship went to the wire, with Fletcher and Sign equal on points with the Kiwi team going into the last of the day’s three medal races.
The British duo got a great start, but were unable to hold off their rivals amid short racing and shifty wind conditions and crossed the line seventh to the Kiwi’s fifth and overall silver.
But it was more than enough to keep them on top of the European tree, with Germany’s Eric Heil and Thomas Ploessel, and France’s Julien d’Ortoli and Noe Delpech finishing 19 points behind the British pair.
Fellow Brits Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes finished eighth overall.
‘It’s really great to be European champions again,’ said Fletcher.
‘It’s been a difficult week with some really tricky conditions, and was definitely easy to get rattled if you allowed it.
‘The conditions were really shifty and we had some good days and bad days, but were always reasonably up there so, although it was mentally a pretty challenging event, I think we handled that side of things pretty well.
‘That’s three medals for us now this season, and it was great to bounce back from some disappointment and gear failure in Holland a few weeks back to get on the podium at Sail for Gold last month and again here.
‘It’d be great to keep the momentum going through until the worlds and win another medal there.’
Peters and Groves collected a bronze medal in the 49erFX class despite earning a last-gasp spot in the nine-boat final.
The pair won the ‘petit final’ round, which allows the ninth-to-16th-placed boats another chance at making the medal races, and made the best of their opportunity.
A third, a sixth and a second from the Brits’ three final races improved their overall position to fifth, and the third European crew.
‘It’s been a very hard week, really wacky racing but definitely good for learning,’ said Hayling’s Peters.
‘I’m really not sure about the format, though,’ she cautioned.
‘It feels a bit strange as we’ve obviously done well out of it here and so I’m happy in that sense, but I don’t think I would want Olympic medals decided in this way.
‘The event has all been good experience for us in the new class, and we’ve learned a lot.’
The British Sailing Team’s Charlotte Dobson and Sophie Ainsworth also featured in the 49erFX finals, finishing eighth overall.