New film shows Robinson guiding British Sailing Team to Tokyo

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Sailing - Men's Finn - Medal Race - Enoshima Yacht Harbour - Tokyo, Japan - August 3, 2021. Giles Scott of Britain celebrates after competing. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Sailing - Men's Finn - Medal Race - Enoshima Yacht Harbour - Tokyo, Japan - August 3, 2021. Giles Scott of Britain celebrates after competing. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

In the new Olympic Channel documentary ‘Chasing Tokyo’, the RYA’s Olympic Performance Manager Mark Robinson describes himself as a constant as he navigates the choppy waters that preceded Tokyo 2020.

The film follows the British Sailing Team as Robinson attempts to guide his sailors to the top of the medal table for the fifth time in six Olympic Games after Covid had kept the build-up to Tokyo unpredictable.

The Australian succeeded in his objective as Team GB won five medals, including three golds – but with a variety of sailing classes, personalities and outcomes, Robinson had to manage his athlete’s highs and lows.

“At one point, last cycle, we had 80 sailors in the team, at the moment we have about 50 as it fluctuates through the Olympic cycle,” he said.

“And they are all different characters. Some of them, as you can see in the film, the windsurfers are just more of that beach vibe.

“But that’s just life, it is like managing any big organisation. Total people involved with the programme ranges from 110 to 150 people, from scientists to engineers to operations staff.”

One of the main protagonists of Chasing Tokyo is windsurfer Tom Squires, whose long beach waves and motorbike reflect his laidback, thrill-seeking self.

Squires has now made his way to the top of the gruelling sport, and is hoping to be an example to others, matching the aspirations of the makers of Chasing Tokyo, who want to open up the sport to new eyes.

Robinson added: “It’s something Tom raises in the film, he was a gardener in Oxford and he mentions how proud he is that when his friends back home just watching him has inspired kids to take up the sport.

“I do hope it inspires more people to take up the sport. It’s interesting with the 15 people we took to the Games.

“A lot of people have this misconception that sailing is just very south coast England based but you find certainly with those who went to the Games, there a couple from Scotland, a few from the Midlands and they are from all over the place.

“A lot of people in the UK start sailing on gravel pits and lakes inland. I hope it does generate more interest across the UK.”

One of those sailors to not come from the south coast is Cardiff’s Hannah Mills, the most successful female Olympic sailor of all time.

Mills was selected as the female flag bearer for Team GB at the opening ceremony in Tokyo prior to winning her second gold medal alongside Eilidh McIntyre.

And Robinson identifies that as a key moment in fostering the Olympic spirit among his charges as they were kept away from the rest of Team GB with the sailing venue an hour from Tokyo.

He said: "It's always a challenge because we're always staying out as sailing but typically some people would do the opening ceremony, but most people don’t because it is too close to the competition starting with the travel up to the main hub as sailing is often hours away, that isn’t new.

“We make sure they get to Kitting Out in the UK and dial into centralised Team GB stuff, and we all got dressed up on the opening ceremony.

“I do say this in the film, but I think having Hannah as the flagbearer really did bring that connection.

“We basically went between our accommodation and the arena, that’s all we did for 35 days or so.

“We would normally quickly pack up their boats and then the team leader would take them up to the main village for a couple of nights and then do the closing ceremony which we weren't allowed to do.”

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