July 7 - The 2013 SAP 49er and 49erFX European Championships in Aarhus, Denmark, came to a close with British sailors claiming a European title and a podium finish, including a second successive win for Alan Fletcher and Alain Sign in the 49er men's class.
Fletcher and Sign added to the title they won in Helsinki in 2011, counting all scores inside the top 10 from their 14 race preliminary series before the three double-points medal races on the final day.
Going into the nine-boat race final, the British pair were the leading European crew, lying in the silver medal position behind New Zealand's London 2012 silver medallists Peter Burling and Blair Tuke.
The two teams were level on points as they lined up for the final nail-biting race of the day, despite the New Zealander's capsizing their boat in the first race, but the Kiwi pair regrouped by winning the second race and managed to claim first place overall by finishing two places above Fletcher and Sign, who came in seventh.
"It's really great to be European champions again," said a delighted Fletcher, 25.
"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."
The 22-year-old Burling, who caused the capsize of the victorious New Zealand boat, when he accidentally unhooked from the boat and slipped in the water, was relieved that they won.
"We managed to make it quite hard for ourselves," he said.
"But we really enjoy the pressure.
"I really enjoyed the course and the racing," he said.
"It's cool being close to the shore.
"It's the first time we've done that in competition."
Fletcher and Sign finished 19 points ahead of Germany's Eric Heil and Thomas Ploessel, and France's Julien d'Ortoli and Noe Delpech, who took bronze, in the European standings.
A third, a sixth and a second from their three final races in the women's 49erFX class saw British pair Frances Peters and Nicola Groves (pictured top) finish as the third best European crew and fifth overall.
The pair won the Petit Final round, which gives crews from ninth to 16th place another opportunity to qualify for the medal races, to earn a place in the nine-boat final, in the new women's skiff category, which will make its Olympic debut at Rio 2016.
Although, the British pair benefited from having another opportunity to qualify for the medal races, Peters is not certain that the format should be applied during Olympic competition at Rio 2016.
"I'm really not sure about the format though," said the 22-year-old from Kent.
"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."
Ida Marie Baad Nielsen and Marie Thusgaard Olsen ensured that Denmark could celebrate some home success as the young crew finished in the gold medal position to become European champions in the 49erFX class.
The two 20-year-olds, who learned to sail on the very Aarhus waters they were competing on, led the field from the start of competition, and secured their first European title after winning the second medal race of the day.
"It was amazing, I've never raced with a crowd like that," said Nielsen who appreciated the vociferous home support.
"Every time you were rounding the marks you could hear people cheering.
"We didn't know we'd won it after the second race, our coach just said go out and race."
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