By Milly McEvoy
Ian Walker, the Royal Yachting Association’s racing director, insists he has more of a supporting role to sailing’s leading actors – but is hoping to put the sport centre stage with new documentary 'Chasing Tokyo'.
The Olympic Channel feature-length film follows the most successful Olympic sailing team of all time in the build-up to last year’s Tokyo Olympic Games.
Covid presented new waters for double Olympic silver medallist Walker to navigate, but in terms of serving up high drama for viewers, it proved a useful plot line.
“It's hard with a sport like sailing to really get the connection with the general public and so the whole ethos behind this was ‘let's try and tell the story behind the scenes,’” the 52-year-old said.
“And, of course, the story just kept getting richer and richer, because of the pressures of COVID. All the way through, we never knew how the Olympics was going to turn out.
“So, you're doing a huge amount of filming all the way through in the hope that the film would be of real public interest and, of course, with the results that we had in Tokyo , it really did bring it to a fantastic conclusion.”
Team GB topped the sailing medal table for the fifth time out of the past six Games with three golds, one silver and one bronze.
The film’s trailer centres on sailing’s struggles to push through into the national conscience despite their glittering success.
Prior to the Games, Walker’s concerns focussed on continuing the legacy that he had helped to foster with medals at the 1996 and 2000 Games.
He added: “I've been a member of this team since 1996, when I competed myself, in some shape or form as an athlete, as a coach and now as a manager.
“The pressure is wanting the athletes to deliver for themselves, I want the team to do well because the athletes deserve it and I want them to feel what I felt over the last 20 years.
“There's also pressure from funding, there's no doubt, as a manager, we know that our funding is dependent on getting medals at the Games.
“And so you do feel that pressure very much because obviously funding is critical to future success and I think that's one of the other differences of being a manager is you've got to keep the bigger picture in mind. It's not just about this Olympics, it's the one after and the one after that.
“Because the team has been the top team for five of the last six Olympic Games, I guess you feel a responsibility not to mess it up and not to be the one here when standards slip.
“But the team is so much bigger than any one individual. My role is more of a sort of conductor of the orchestra, making sure we've got really good players in our orchestra and making sure the communication’s good and making sure the culture is right. And I think that's something that we've done well over the last few years.”