New sailing documentary aiming to shatter the sport’s elitist cliché

Royal Yachting Association race director Ian Walker is hoping a new documentary about the British sailing team will break the sport’s elite stereotypes.

The feature-length film, Chasing Tokyo, follows Walker and his charges as they prepare for Tokyo 2020, an Olympic Games stumped by Covid.

It also sheds light on some of the brightest figures in British sailing, who come from a diverse range of backgrounds, all determined to continue their country’s bright legacy in the sport.

“I think a lot of people see sailing as incredibly elitist, and that’s just not the case when you look at our athletes on the Olympic team,” said the two-time Olympic medalist.

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

“I like to convey the idea, there were real people working incredibly hard who don’t get the rewards, on the contrary, that you get in other sports.

“But what we get in sailing is very different than 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 bring out the best in your teammates, even if it’s just one-handed, when you’re working with all the different people that contribute to your performance.

“It’s one of the reasons I’m so dying for my kids to go sailing. not because I really want them to win gold medals, but because it’s just so good for their personal and character development.

“I think in general seafarers are incredibly well-rounded people who I think are then really well placed to move on to other walks of life.”

Walker has entered his final week as Race Director after leading Team GB to the top of the sailing medal table with three gold, one silver and one bronze medalists each in Tokyo last year.

But the last half of his four-and-a-half-year stint was far from easy – Walker had to rethink his approach, as did the film crew.

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

“And in all the preparation for Tokyo, we were really concerned that we wouldn’t be able to build enough team spirit because we couldn’t have spent that time as a group.

“Sailing is quite an individual sport but at the Games we are 10 events and everyone competes as a team and that really shows in the documentary.

“We worried about it, but the irony of the whole thing, in the end, was that it brought us together because when we went to Tokyo, of course, we couldn’t step out of our bubble to meet someone else.

“The real challenge was filming it, we couldn’t have any contact with the athletes, we’re trying to make sure we don’t spread the virus. We couldn’t send the film crew to Tokyo as originally planned, which presented a lot of challenges.

“I am very pleased that the film crew has strengthened and we managed to tell the story.”

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