DORSET sailing heroes Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell claimed a spectacular Olympic gold medal in the men’s 49er class – by a matter of centimetres.

Fletcher and Bithell of Portland went into the medal race at Tokyo 2020 needing to beat New Zealand’s reigning Olympic and World champions Peter Burrell and Blair Tuke by four points.

A nerve-shredding medal race boiled down to the three podium finishers, with Germany’s Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel accelerating viciously for the line.

Fletcher and Bithell were leading by a distance but their left-hand line picked up less wind than the Germans, who were handily ahead of the Kiwis in third.

Knowing a German medal race win would obliterate their hopes of gold, Fletcher and Bithell performed a ‘bear away’ – pushing the tiller to the opposite side of the mainsail.

This manoeuvre gave them enough momentum to hold off the charge of Heil and Ploessel to record Team GB’s first sailing gold medal of Tokyo 2020 – on the line.

As the British pair realised their gold medal, Fletcher shouted “get in!” before embracing Bithell, who adds gold to an Olympic silver earned at London 2012.

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There was further golden news for Team GB as Giles Scott, who was formerly based in Portland before moving to Cambridgeshire, retaining his Olympic title in the Finn class.

Scott’s success means Team GB have won the Finn gold at the past six Olympic Games.