by Matt Carter
When the 2013 Seiko 49er and 49erFX World Championships get underway in Marseille, France, next week (24-29 September), Britain’s high performance skiff sailors will be looking to continue the run of podium success for the British Sailing Team.
Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign
Seven British Sailing Team crews will be in action in the Men’s 49er event, while a further three female crews will be eager to make their mark in the inaugural 49erFX event which was introduced for the Rio 2016 cycle.
The championship has the largest attendance for the 49er since 2001, with over 96 49ers in the men’s event and over 53 49erFX teams in the female category. The British sailors will contest across six days of racing which will include three days of qualifying, two days of semi-finals and the Final medal race decider to be held on Sunday 29 September.
Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign, who enter the regatta as European champions after securing their second 49er European title in Aarhus, Denmark in July, will be determined to carry the momentum forward as they look for their first taste of World Championship success.
Fletcher said: 'Finishing second and first European last month was a massive confidence boost for us as we enter the World Championships, especially as we only narrowly missed out to the Kiwis on overall first place. If we can continue from where we left off, keep consistent and stick to our routines then I think we have every chance of a podium finish come the end of the week.'
'We have had a good few months of solid training down in Weymouth and a few weeks in Falmouth where we had a range of conditions to test ourselves in. We have been working particular hard on our boat speed and on a few other areas so hopefully when we compete at the Worlds all that hard work and effort will pay off.'
Fletcher, who’s highest place finish at a World Championships was in 2010 when the British duo finished fifth in Freeport, Bahamas, insists they are relishing the challenge of coming up against the best 49er sailors from around the world, including the London 2012 Olympic champions from Australia.
'The Worlds are always a really competitive event with the world’s best sailors in attendance. Last summer’s Olympic champions Nathan [Outteridge] and Iain [Jenson] are always tough to competition and I’m sure they will be once again, even though they have spent time out of the boat competing in the Americas Cup.
'The last time we competed against them was at Sail for Gold in 2012 where we finished third and they were first, so we are looking forward to another great battle where hopefully this time we can come out on top,' said Market Harborough’s Fletcher.
Joining Fletcher and Sign will be London 2012 Olympians Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes who will be looking for their first podium finish of 2013 while Dave Evans and Ed Powys will aim to make it on the podium for a fourth time this season.
Two-time 470 World Champion Nic Asher, and 2012 470 silver medallist Stuart Bithell will also be in action with their respective partners Fynn Sterritt and Chris Grube while John Pink-Simon Wheeler and Podium Potential sailors James Peters-Ed Fitzgerald will also be competing across the six days of racing.
At the first ever World Championship event for the 49erFX event, British sailors will be gunning for glory as they look to build on their new permanent partnerships which were formed this summer.
Charlotte Dobson, who will be competing with Sophie Ainsworth amongst 53 other skiff sailors, admits that it’s a slightly strange position to be in going into a World Championships considering there relatively new partnership in the boat.
'It’s certainly a strange feeling that’s for sure entering a World Championships not feeling completely ‘polished’ - but I don’t think anybody in the world is going to feel fully polished as no one has had enough time in the boat - we are still at the bottom of a very steep learning curve.
'Saying that, we feel like we are ready as we have been training hard over the past few months on certain areas and are pleased with our progress. I think we are just ready to roll with the punches and will just have to see what happens.'
The 27-year-old helm from Helensburgh continued: 'There are going to be plenty of areas where other teams will be more prepared than us, have more experience in certain conditions than us but on the other hand I’m sure we will have more experience in other areas as well. We are just going to have to take each day as it comes, each race as it comes and go from there – but we are really excited and really pleased with where we are at with such a short space of time in the boat.'
With the ‘Road to Rio’ now well and truly underway and with stiff competition from fellow Brits Frances Peters-Nicola Groves and Kate Macgregor-Mary Rook who will also be flying the British flag in France, Dobson admits that this is a key event in terms of their 2016 ambitions.
'This event is really important for us just because we are such a new team and there are only really six major events and six opportunities to deliver when it matters in the build-up to Rio. This is our opportunity to establish ourselves as one of the top teams early on and to deliver on the main stage, but it’s also a chance to learn and take certain things away which we can work and improve upon for future regattas.'
Racing at the 2013 Seiko 49er & 49erFX World Championships gets underway on Tuesday 24 September with the final medal races on Sunday 29 September.
For news and results from the 2013 Seiko 49er and 49erFX World Championships, follow the British Sailing Team Website.
For further event information, visit Event Website