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Autumn 2021Stuart Bithell: Olympic Gold for Littleborough Sailor

Bithell and partner Dylan Fletcher win first-ever 49er sailing gold for Team GB in Tokyo.

Stuart Bithell is an elite sailor who learned and honed his sport at Hollingworth Lake. He won a silver medal at the London 2012 Olympics, and earned a gold at Tokyo 2020 in one of the most dramatic Olympic regatta races of all time.

Alongside his sailing partner, Dylan Fletcher, the 34-year-old claimed a dramatic men’s 49er gold medal at the Tokyo games on Enoshima waters on 3 August.

The duo, once rivals on the water, clinched the win after narrowly edging out both Germany and New Zealand by centimetres in the final race to land their victory.

Bithell and Fletcher’s gold is the first-ever 49er sailing gold for Team GB – a dream come true for Bithell.

He said: “Dreams come true, kids. I’ve certainly never seen a race this close in the Olympics, not in the 49er class. “It must have been thrilling to watch; it was terrible to be in. Dylan talks about it being a long road since Rio but for me, it’s been nine years.

“I missed out last cycle to Dylan, so it’s been a long part of my career just really chipping away and working hard. This is my last Olympics, almost certainly.

“As you can imagine it’s so nice to come away with the gold; it’s been the dream since when I was a little boy.”

Bithell previously won a silver medal in the 470 class at London 2012 with Luke Patience, but he nearly called time on his career when he was pipped to Rio 2016 selection by his fellow gold medallist Fletcher.

Back on the waters of Weymouth, the pair were racing one another in foiling Moth dinghies when they had a lightbulb moment: why not team up for a tilt at Tokyo 2020?

The decision brought victory: within a year, Fletcher and Bithell had become a force to be reckoned with, winning the 49er European and world championships in 2017.

Bithell learned to sail at Hollingworth Lake Sailing Club as a child, where his parents, Leslie and Vivian, watched his winning race with club members on 3 August. He began competing for the club aged 12 and went on to work as an instructor at Hollingworth Lake Water Activity Centre.

Since its formation in 1946, the Hollingworth Lake Sailing Club has played a prominent role in the sport of British dinghy sailing. The club is home to a number of national and world champions, including Bithell – and one of its younger members is proving that she too has the makings of an elite athlete.

Its top junior, Daisy Fisher, then 14, became the first female member of the club to be accepted for a national squad and is now the top sailor in the Topper class throughout the North of England.

Daisy already has several titles under her belt and recently won the last event of the season at Budworth Sailing Club in Cheshire, returning home with an armful of trophies.

With stiff competition, it came down to the winner of the very last race to decide the outcome and Daisy sailed away from the fleet for an emphatic victory to cement her place at the top.

Daisy began sailing on the national circuit in 2019 – just two years after taking up the sport.