Bithell goes 49er
Stuart Bithell, who claimed Olympic sailing silver in 2012, has revealed he is to team up with fellow ex-470 sailor Chris Grube in his quest for gold at Rio 2016.
Bithell, who partnered Luke Patience to 2012 podium glory and two World Championship silvers in the 470 class, has now made the switch to the high performance 49er skiff in a bid to realise his golden ambitions.
The 26-year-old Rochdale sailor and Patience, 26, from Helensburgh, called time on their 470 partnership at the end of 2012, with their combined body weight in the boat deemed too heavy to be competitive in the light winds expected in Rio.
Bithell will now join forces with a fellow North West talent, 27-year-old Chris Grube from Mickle Trafford, Chester, who has also made the transition from the 470 into the 49er class. The pair revealed their new partnership today at the Tullett Prebon London Boat Show..
Grube sailed with double Olympic silver medallist Nick Rogers in a bid for selection for the London 2012 Games, but missed out on the one GBR qualifying spot at the hands of Bithell and Patience.
Grube and Rogers claimed some impressive results in their short time together, finishing fourth at the Skandia Sail for Gold World Cup Regatta in 2011, fifth at the Olympic Test Event in Weymouth and Portland, and tenth at the 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships in Perth.
Once rivals, now teammates, Bithell and Grube have been racking up the training hours in the 49er since October getting to grips with their new boat, and up to speed in this fast and highly agile class.
“It’s a very exciting new challenge for us both,” Bithell explained. “For me it’s a change of boat and a change of position on the boat from crew to helm, so there’s lots to learn but we’ve been having a great time so far and I think we have so much potential as a team.
“As a junior and youth sailor I was a helm so it’s kind of a return to my roots in a way – albeit in a faster boat! Hopefully I can be as successful as the likes of Sarah Ayton and Ian Walker who started their Olympic careers as medal-winning crews and then went on to become medal-winning helms as well.”
Bithell concluded: “Chris is a great crew and I know that he fully shares my dreams of gold in Rio so we’ll both be putting in the hard yards to try and make that happen.”
Grube, who sailed in the 470 with Luke Patience up until 2009, said: “The opportunity to sail with Stuart, and in such an exciting class, was one I jumped at. We’ve had some great training over the past few months, both in the UK and in Murcia, and with a lot of Skandia Team GBR talent in the 49er we know we’re going to be pushed hard, which is great motivation!
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’re both really excited about the challenge. I’ve had the opportunity to sail with three silver medallists now – Luke, Nick and now Stuart – so I have a lot of experience of my own of Olympic campaigning which will hopefully complement Stuart’s skills and make us a dream team for Rio!”