Tokyo stars announce new line-ups for Paris tilt

Olympic champion sailors Dylan Fletcher and Eilidh McIntyre have revealed the teammates they will pair up with for a shot at a second gold medal.

Fletcher made history alongside Stuart Bithell at Tokyo 2020 as the pair became the first Brits to win Olympic gold in the 49er class.

Following Bithell’s retirement from Olympic sailing, Fletcher has teamed up with Rhos Hawes, a rising star in the 49er class who won the under-23 European title in 2017. Although it is still early days for the new partnership, Fletcher said its potential is promising.

“Having fulfilled my dream of winning gold in Tokyo, I instantly started thinking about what was next,” said Fletcher, 33, from Thames Ditton, Surrey.

“One thing I knew was that I still had the fire to go again, but the big question was with who. In the back of my mind I always thought that if I went again it would be with Rhos, yet at the same time there were quite a few parts that had to fall in to place to make this happen.

“It is awesome to get stuck into another campaign with a new crew with new equipment in the 49er class. Returning as Olympic champion certainly changes some parts of the campaign but at the end of the day it is still a sailboat race.

“There is a long road ahead of us, which is all about the end goal of once again standing on that top step at the Olympics. It is exciting just talking about it and daunting at the same time. Time to get our heads down and put the hours in.”

Hawes, 24, from Cirencester, added: “There may be no better opportunity to achieve my goal of an Olympic gold medal than to team up with someone who has experienced it and achieved it. The beauty of sport and sailing is that we are both still able to learn, improve and enjoy it every day. There will be a lot of challenges heading towards Paris 2024 but that is exciting. As a team we are up for it!”

McIntyre also sealed her place in the history books in Tokyo, taking the top spot in the women’s 470 with Hannah Mills. In doing so she followed in the footsteps of her dad Mike, who won the Star class at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.

Mills, who became the most successful female Olympic sailor in history off the back of the win, has retired from Olympic sailing to concentrate on the SailGP circuit and her environmental campaigning.

For Paris 2024, 470 crews must be mixed – and McIntyre has now forged a partnership with Martin Wrigley, training partner to Tokyo 2020 Olympians Luke Patience and Chris Grube.

“Martin and I have spoken for years about the 470 going mixed and partnering up so it was kind of inevitable,” said Hayling Island’s McIntyre, 27.

“For me since the Games I have struggled with my drive but I think it is slowly creeping back. I am loving the new challenge, it is a fun change and the class becoming mixed is a totally new dynamic. We are having fun and slowly figuring stuff out, so let us see the season goes.”

Wrigley, 24, from Hereford, said: “It is really exciting to be teaming up with Eilidh this cycle, not only because of the success and experience she brings, but because she has also been a big part of my journey in Olympic sailing.

“When I first joined the team Eilidh took me under her wing a bit and even came sailing with me in Weymouth during the depths of winter! As soon as the decision was made to go mixed we immediately joked about rekindling our partnership from the years before, so it will be really cool to see how it pans out.”

Meanwhile, two-time Olympian Saskia Tidey has teamed up with 20-year-old Freya Black in the 49erFX after Charlotte Dobson called time on her Olympic career. A national champion in the 29er class, Black is returning to skiff racing after competing in the mixed 470 class for the past two years.

“Freya is a great young sailor who has transitioned seamlessly into the FX from the 29er/ 470 class,” said Tidey, 28, from Portland, Dorset.

“There was a sparkly feeling in the boat when we first sailed. I left the boat park that day feeling pretty motivated and excited to see more. Our attitudes, beliefs and raw competitiveness have blended so well from the get-go. I truly believe in our potential to represent Great Britain at Paris 2024 and challenge for medal winning performances towards LA 2028.”

Black, from Goudhurst, Kent, added: “Partnering up with Sas in a 49erFX is a huge opportunity for me to make the jump into a team that has the experience and knowledge of a medal worthy campaign. Bringing together Sas’ epic crewing skills and my 470 background of racing and boat feel, we see the potential of a great team.”

Other new pairings for 2022 include Chris Taylor/James Grummett, Nick Robins/Dan Budden and Arran Holman/James Taylor, all in the 49er class.

Amy Seabright (470), Kirstie Urwin (Nacra 17), Nikki Boniface (Nacra 17) and George Povall (ILCA 6/470) have retired from the British Sailing Team.

The first major event of 2022 for the British Sailing Team will be the Princess Sofia Regatta in Palma, Mallorca, in early April.

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