Bithell and Fletcher wrap up Princess Sofia Trophy gold with day to spare
Dylan Fletcher admits it may take some time for the scale of his and crewmate Stuart Bithell's accomplishment to sink in after blowing away the field to win 49er gold with a day to spare at the Princess Sofia Trophy in Mallorca.
The British sailors outclassed a fleet including reigning Olympic champions Blair Tuke and Peter Burling of New Zealand – only finishing outside top five in three of 12 races – to render the result of the double-points medal race obsolete by accruing a 24-point advantage atop the standings.
It's the first time either man has taken gold at the prestigious annual regatta and Rio 2016 Olympian Fletcher was astonished at just how dominant the pair were.
"We've never done a regatta and accumulated so few points going into a medal race," explained Fletcher.
"To win with a day to spare and beat the Olympic champions Pete (Burling) and Blair (Tuke) is amazing. It hasn't really sunk in just how much that means.
"It's a testament to how well we've been working together and all the people who have worked with us behind the scenes.
"We had a tricky year last year and we worked hard over the winter, so to come back here and have everything firing like we want it feels pretty good. We're stoked."
Fletcher and Bithell aren't the only Brits who will leave Palma with a medal after Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre won both women's 470 races on the penultimate day of the regatta to guarantee a top-three finish.
The duo head into the medal race 13 points ahead of French pair Camille Lecointre and Aloise Retornaz and McIntyre claims holding on to take gold would be a particularly impressive accomplishment given her health throughout the week.
"It was really nice to record two wins on the penultimate day," said McIntyre. "I've been feeling a bit poorly this week but Hannah has carried me through!
"We were fast out there and if we stay in the top five tomorrow, we'll win – that would be incredible."
Defending Finn class champion Giles Scott is also guaranteed a medal as two race wins on the penultimate day moved him within six points of top spot and too far ahead of fourth to be caught.
Luke Patience and Chris Grube will start the men's 470 medal race in second, although they can't catch the leaders, while Elliot Hanson is second and Nick Thompson third in a tight Laser class.
In the Nacra 17 fleet, John Gimson and Anna Burnet lie third, with Ben Saxton and Nicola Boniface fourth, heading into the final day, while Charlotte Dobson are Saskia Tidey currently hold the bronze-medal spot in the 49er FX competition.