UK Markets open in 7 hrs 18 mins

Great Britain rule the Olympic waves on heart-thumping morning of drama in Enoshima

·3-min read
Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Sailing - Men's 49er - Medal Ceremony - Enoshima Yacht Harbour - Tokyo, Japan - August 3, 2021. Gold medallists Dylan Fletcher of Britain and Stuart Bithell of Britain celebrate on the podium. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Team GB claimed double gold in a pair of Tokyo thrillers as Giles Scott - defending Finn champion - and Stuart Bithell and Dylan Fletcher soared to glory

By James Toney in Tokyo

Sailing is not supposed to be a game of inches but here on Sagami Bay, on a race course measured in miles not metres, fractions mattered.

And in the space of just 57 minutes, Team GB claimed double gold in two of the most dramatic races in the history of Olympic sailing. 

This regatta largely goes unnoticed for the first week of the Games - races are staged, weather delays, points are accumulated and bad results discarded. 

But medal races, worth double points, add tension and jeopardy and, it seems, drama undiluted. 

Stuart Bithell and Dylan Fletcher, racing in the 49er skiff, needed to finish two positions clear of New Zealanders Peter Burling and Blair Tuke - and did by centimetres. 

Team-mate Giles Scott required a top five finish to guarantee gold and the defence of his Rio title but a horror start left him frantically racing through the fleet as the finish line loomed ever closer. 

HINCH HEROICS, CAMPBELL POWERS TO SILVER, EVENTING GOLD - TEAM GB WRAP DAY 10
HINCH HEROICS, CAMPBELL POWERS TO SILVER, EVENTING GOLD - TEAM GB WRAP DAY 10

He crossed the line in fifth - again by a margin almost invisible to the naked eye. 

And still Team GB sailors were not done, John Gimson and Anna Burnet taking silver in the mixed multihull, Britain's best day on the high seas since Trafalgar, Sluys or the Nile.

“Dreams come true kids," said Bithell after a thriller broadcast live on Eurosport and Discovery+. "I’ve certainly never seen a race that close in the Olympics, it must have been thrilling to watch, it was terrible to be in. 

"This is my last Games, almost certainly, and to have this medal, that's been the dream since I was so little."

There were storylines galore, almost too many to write.

Bithell, one of the characters of the British team, nearly called time on his career when he was pipped to Rio selection by his fellow gold medallist.

Fletcher was cheered to victory by team-mate Charlotte Dobson - they get married in three weeks and planning is 'behind schedule'.

TOKYO 2020 OLYMPICS - 'HE'S DONE IT!' - TEAM GB'S GILES SCOTT WINS SECOND SUCCESSIVE SAILING GOLD
TOKYO 2020 OLYMPICS - 'HE'S DONE IT!' - TEAM GB'S GILES SCOTT WINS SECOND SUCCESSIVE SAILING GOLD

Gimson and Burnet, partners on and off the water, have overcome a succession of personal setbacks to make this team, the former selling his house in a bid to give it one last shot. 

And then there is Scott, the world's finest tactical sailor, whose victory secures a sixth consecutive British gold in sailing's heavyweight dinghy, 21 unbroken years of high seas hegemony. 

Scott's lead over his rivals meant he could sail a conservative race and bank the gold but, like his mentor Ben Ainslie, he doesn't do conservative and his aggression on the start line forced him to call a penalty on himself when he thought he'd crossed the line early. 

"I tried to stay relaxed but I've never been involved in a boat race as close as that," he said, the relief rolling over him like a wave. 

"I never gave up and always kept pushing but I'm a realist and I can count, I knew I was running out of time.

TOKYO 2020 - EMILY CAMPBELL HOPES TO INSPIRE A NEW GENERATION OF WEIGHTLIFTERS WITH OLYMPIC SILVER
TOKYO 2020 - EMILY CAMPBELL HOPES TO INSPIRE A NEW GENERATION OF WEIGHTLIFTERS WITH OLYMPIC SILVER

"I hoped on the last run I could make good headway, I made a few nice calls and a few well-timed gybes and just sneaked it on the line. It was just enough, just. 

"That's the greatest pressure of my career. It climbed throughout the race, that was full on. 

"Sailing is so dependent on the wind, when the wind is in it's super exciting but in light conditions like that it's super close and a mind game, it comes down to centimetres and inches. Hopefully it provided some entertainment." 

The sun didn't need much encouragement over the yardarm for celebrations to begin here in Enoshima, with potentially more to follow on Wednesday. Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre carry a commanding advantage into the final race of the women's 470 class.

Stream every unmissable moment of Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 live on discovery+, the Streaming Home of the Olympics.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting