A silver medal at their world championship in Fremantle last month has secured the Olympic berth in Weymouth this year for Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell in the 470 dinghy. It also made Patience the first Scotsman to be selected for Britain’s Olympic squad.
Patience was born in Helensburgh and now lives in Portland, where the 2012 Olympic sailing regatta will be staged. He began sailing an Optimist aged seven and started racing two years later at his local sailing club, Royal Northern and Clyde Yacht Club. He will be 26 on 4 August, just two days before the men’s 470 medal race.
Bithell was born in Rochdale, England and now lives in Portland. He also started sailing at seven at Hollingworth Lake Sailing Club in Rochdale. He will be 26 on 28th August.
Saying farewell to his career in the Optimist dinghy, Matt Whitfield of Penarth, S Wales, was the top placed of the five-strong British team at the world championship in Napier, New Zealand. Last year the 14-year old was 141st. This year he had jumped 120 places up the table to be 21st but he will not be at the next world championship in the Dominican Republic in July.
Instead he will be contesting the youth European championship of the Laser Radial in Austria in August. He is also the current world champion in the Feva class dinghy.
Said squad coach Alan Williams: “You are going to hear a lot more of this young man. Most of the squad will be going on to Dominica, but we know that there are some countries where are competitors are sailing more hours in a week than we do in a month.”
One of those is Singapore, where sailing is often part of the school curriculum, and from where the 2011 champion, Kimberly Lim comes. She is the second successive girl to win the world crown in a class which allows and encourages open competition between girls and boys. Bart Lambriex of The Netherlands was second with another Singapore competitor, Ryan Lo, third.
And it was an Irish girl, Sophie Browne, from Tralee Bay Sailing Club and the Royal Cork, who beat all the British sailors to be 13th overall.