PORTLAND’S Olympic sailing silver medallist Stuart Bithell, has had a change of tack in his quest for Olympic glory at Rio 2016.
Bithell, 28, and his 2012 silver medal-winning team-mate Luke Patience called time on their 470 partnership at the end of 2012, with their combined body weight in the dinghy deemed too heavy to be competitive in the light winds expected in Rio.
Last year, Bithell switched to helming in the high performance 49er skiff in a bid to realise his golden ambitions, teaming up with Chris ‘Twiggy’ Grube.
But one year on, Bithell has returned to crewing and teamed up with Hampshire sailor John Pink, a World Championship silver medallist in the 49er class.
This week, the pair are making their World Cup debut at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami.
Bithell said suffering an ankle injury last year was a key reason behind his change of approach.
He said: “Going from crewing a 470 to helming a 49er was always going to be a hard thing to do, but to then miss most of the summer there were a few signs in my mind telling me that actually I was running out of time as a helm.
“I had to learn so much, so that was it really.
“I decided to return to crewing, which was quite a hard decision to be honest – I had a great team with Twiggy – but I made the decision and thus far I’ve not had any regrets.”
Bithell and Pink, who teamed up in November, finished second in the 49er North American Championships – the warm up event to this week’s World Cup regatta.
At the time of going to print, Bithell and Pink were leading the 33-boat 49er fleet.
Racing got underway on Biscayne Bay, Miami in light winds on Monday and Tuesday.
Medal races are scheduled to take place for the Paralympic classes today, followed by the Olympic classes tomorrow.