Team GB enjoy sailing super Tuesday with double gold and mixed Nacra silver

Giles Scott successfully defended his Olympic title in the men’s Finn class with a fourth-place finish in the medal race as Britain won two dramatic sailing golds in quick succession on Tuesday and followed that up with a silver.

Scott’s heroics came shortly after Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell had kickstarted the medal rush with a close-fought win in the men’s 49er. John Gimson ended a 20-year wait for an Olympic medal when he and Anna Burnet added a silver medal in the Nacra 17 to the day’s tally with a fifth-place finish in their medal race.

There is potentially more to come, too, with the reigning 470 Olympic champion, Hannah Mills, and her new partner Eilidh McIntyre, 14 points ahead of France going into Wednesday’s medal race. Scott had a nine-point lead over Hungary’s Zsombor Berecz before the Finn medal race began but suffered a heart-stopping moment at the start of his quest to secure Team GB’s sixth successive gold in the class. Fearing he had made a false start, the 34-year-old looped back round to start again, putting himself in last place.

“I don’t think I was over at the start but I played it super-safe because that was the only way I could mess things,” he said. “I made the call to go quick and then I had quite a lot on. I made it by the skin of my teeth, it was properly to the wire. It was really tight. I tried to stay relaxed but I’ve never been involved in a boat race as close as that. It was mine to lose, if it had been any other race there was no way I’d go back.”

Berecz crossed the finish line first but Scott’s fourth place finish ensured a three-point margin over his rival in silver.

GB now own the Finn gold, said Scott, who kept the medal in British hands for the final time, with the class dropped from future Olympics. Britons have won Finn gold at every Games since Iain Percy’s victory in 2000. Ben Ainslie won three golds up to London 2012, before handing over to Scott, who continued the run in Rio in 2016.

Fletcher and Bithell had started the day in second, four points behind New Zealand’s Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, and level with Spain, going into the double-point medal race. A lack of wind on Monday had forced a postponement of the 49er finale in Enoshima Harbour but there was no stopping Fletcher and Bithell, who aggressively took control of the race early on, determined to do their bit regardless of what was going on behind them.

It was achingly tight and the British pair, ranked No 1 in the world, crossed the line just ahead of the Germans, with New Zealand third. With the four-point gap closed, GB won gold based on having finished in front of their rivals in the final race. Germany finished in the bronze medal position after their second-place finish.

Had they ever been in a race that tight? “Maybe a few training races but I’ve certainly never seen that in the Olympics, not in the 49er class,” said Bithell.

Fletcher said: “I thought we had it to be honest but I knew it was super touch-and-go. The other guys had right of way over us so we had to be careful to not get a penalty and time everything just right, but Stu did an incredible job of making the boat go fast and we just nicked it at the end.”

Gimson and Burnet were guaranteed a medal going into their Nacra 17 medal race and sat in second behind the Italian pairing of Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti. Britain had 10 top-five finishes but after the medal race finished second, 10 points behind Tita and Banti.

“It’s been worth every minute,” said Gimson. “I’ve done it for 20 years to get here. Twice my discipline got dropped as a class. As a youngster having done one cycle [I was] ready to go for my campaign for the Games and it was dropped at the start of the cycle. The second time I’d sold my house and had no money and I was questioning my life decisions but it was all worth it, all of it.”

Burnet said: “I just feel like John’s someone who’s the most deserving of an Olympic medal of anyone I’ve ever known. He’s put so much work into this for so long. To help him achieve that, I’m just so happy.”

Charlotte Dobson, who will marry Fletcher on 26 August, and Saskia Tidey failed to climb into a medal position after finishing 14th in the women’s 49er FX medal race. After winning their first two races things fell apart as they came between 13th and 16th in races seven to 10. They finished sixth overall. Dobson and Fletcher now switch their attention to their wedding. “We haven’t even invited everyone, we haven’t done suits, there’s so many things that most people sort out that, hopefully, maybe, Charlotte will do,” said Fletcher with a laugh.

Emma Wilson won the team’s first sailing medal on Saturday with bronze in the women’s windsurfing.