New sailing documentary hoping to smash sport's elitist stereoype

·3-min read
Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Sailing - Men's 470 - Opening Series - Enoshima Yacht Harbour - Tokyo, Japan - July 29, 2021. Luke Patience and Chris Grube of Britain in action. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado
Tokyo 2020 was sailing's most successful games for Team GB

By Milly McEvoy

The Royal Yachting Association’s racing director Ian Walker hopes a new documentary following the British Sailing Team will break down the sport’s elitist stereotypes.

The feature-length Olympic Channel film ‘Chasing Tokyo’ follows Walker and his charges as they gear up for Tokyo 2020, an Olympic Games thrown into uncertainty by Covid.

It also shines a light on some of British sailing’s brightest characters who come from a variety of backgrounds, all set on continuing their country’s sparkling legacy in the sport.

“I think a lot of people's perception of sailing is that it's incredibly elitist and that just isn't the case when you look at our athletes in the Olympic team,” the double Olympic medallist said.

“And I think you can really see the background and start to understand, it's almost quite dark at times in terms of the pressure that the athletes are under, which I'm sure is true across many other sports.

“I like getting the idea across, there were real people who are working incredibly hard, who don't get the rewards, in fact quite the opposite, of that you get in other sports.

“But what we get in sailing is something very different to that we get a very rich experience, in terms of, knowledge and teamwork, and resilience, and dealing with the weather and the challenges and the technology of the boats.

“And you're getting the best out of your teammates, even if you're in a single-hander, working with all the different people who contribute to your performance.

“So that's one of the reasons I'm so keen for my children to sail. not because I want them to win gold medals necessarily, but because it's just so good for their development of themselves personally and their characters.

“I think generally sailors are incredibly rounded people who I think are then really well placed to go into other walks of life.”

Walker has entered his final week in the role as racing director having guided Team GB to the top of the sailing medal table with three golds, a silver and a bronze apiece in Tokyo last year.

But the final half of his four-and-a-half-year stint was less than plain sailing – Walker having to reimagine his approach , as did the film crew.

He added: “It was really hard because I had to actively stay away from everybody. I went a year and a half without even going to a regatta with any of the athletes.

“And in that whole build-up to Tokyo, we were really worried that we wouldn't be able to build enough team spirit because we wouldn't have been able to spend that time together as a group.

“Sailing is a fairly individual sport, but at the Games, we’re 10 events and everybody goes as a team and that really comes across actually in the documentary.

“We were worried about that, but the irony of the whole thing was in the end, it's what brought us together because, of course, when we went to Tokyo, we couldn't step outside of our bubble to meet anybody else.

“The real challenge was filming it, we couldn't have contact with the athletes, we're trying to make sure that we didn't spread the virus. We couldn't send the film crew to Tokyo as we'd originally intended, so it created an awful lot of challenges.

“I'm really pleased that the film crew stepped up and we managed to overcome to be able to tell the story.”

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