GB sailors Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell had to settle for silver after falling short of their Australian rivals in the men's 470 medal race in Weymouth.
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470 sailor on winning Olympic silver
“We're happy, happy boys. What a place, we're in paradise. It's so cool”
The British duo were already guaranteed at least a silver medal and went into the final race needing to beat the Australians with one boat between them to clinch gold.
The British led around the first mark, but Australia's Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page made ground downwind and stayed clear to clinch gold.
Argentina held onto third place to secure the bronze.
"To stand on an Olympic podium, it's not gold, but we're young boys and we'll be back," said helm Patience. "We're happy, happy boys. What a place. We're in paradise. It's so cool."
Bithell added: "We got the better of them at the start and just managed to sneak ahead, but unfortunately they sailed a fantastic race. They're worthy champions, but we're happy with second."
The GB crew kept close to the Australians in the pre-start and led the fleet off the line, rounding the top mark ahead of Croatia and Australia. At that point, gold was going to Britain, but Belcher and Page had better pace downwind and slipped past both boats to lead at the second mark.
Patience and Bithell tried to engage the Australians on the second upwind leg, to try to slow them and hope the chasing pack could affect their progress, but Croatia caught up and passed the Britons.
- Following this result for Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page, London 2012 is now Australia's most successful Olympic sailing regatta
On the final downwind leg, the GB sailors were forced to do a penalty turn after they were deemed to have used illegal "pumping" to generate more speed, allowing Argentina to slide past.
"It's not gold, but there's plenty of time and we're coming back and we mean business next time," added Patience.
Following this result, London 2012 is now Australia's most successful Olympic sailing regatta. Their three golds beats the two golds, silver and bronze they won at Sydney in 2000.
"It's a special feeling," said 40-year-old Page, who won gold with Nathan Wilmot at the Beijing Games in 2008.
"It's been a tough battle all week. Luke and Stuart brought their 'A' game, but to get over the line first was phenomenal. It's amazing for sailing to be delivering. To come away with three golds is all our dreams come true. Australian sailing is going from strength to strength."
Patience, 26, and Bithell, 25, teamed up in 2009 and shortly after finished runners-up at the World Championships in Denmark.
The Britons were also runners-up to Belcher and Page at the World Championships in Perth in December 2011.