ROAD TO TOKYO: ONLY ONE GOAL IN MIND FOR TEAM GB SAILOR
5 January 2021
It’s said that smooth seas do not make skilful sailors, so the bumpy waters of 2020 have at the very least provided a good learning experience for Team GB sailor Luke Patience.
Among the setbacks brought about by the pandemic this year was the postponement of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 by a year, but rather than flounder, Patience has simply recalibrated his plans and placed his focus in other areas.
“A sailboat is much like a Formula 1 car,” the 34-year-old Scot says. “There is so much work that goes into ensuring the highest performance. We are sailors and Olympians, but also project managers, technicians, engineers and so much more. Taking away one element because of the [COVID] restrictions, just meant more time to work on the others.”
With so many variables in the sport, there has not been any lasting emotional effect on the postponement for the British sailor. A two-time Olympian, Patience has the experience to deal with the unexpected, and his focus remains on not wasting the extra time afforded to him.
Patience has already qualified for Tokyo 2020, and the buzz of booking his ticket to his third-straight Games is still very real. The aim now is to return from the Land of the Rising Sun next year with a gold medal, something that eluded him in his first two Olympic appearances, at London 2012 and Rio 2016.
Looking back on his first Games in London, where he won silver in the Men’s 470 Class with Stuart Bithell, Patience describes them as unique and expresses his fortune at being a part of the generation blessed with the opportunity to experience a home Games.
“Having people on the dock, television cameras, helicopters overhead, it was different to how the sport normally operates, but it was an absolute buzz and if could be like that every time, I would love it,” he recalls. “It truly was the best two weeks of my life.”
Patience’s teammate for the second straight Olympic Games is Chris Grube, with whom he has forged a strong partnership that dates back over 15 years.
The duo took bronze in the 470 class at the 2006 Junior World Championships before going their separate ways in 2009. They competed against each other at London 2012 before reforming their partnership ahead of Rio 2016 after Patience’s partner at the time, Elliot Willis, was diagnosed with cancer. With little time to prepare, Patience and Grube nevertheless placed just outside the medals in fifth place.
“Changes bring about a new power, and starting a new partnership has been very engaging, exciting and brings a new opportunity to reinvent ourselves,” Patience explains. “Chris brings a calm nature to the team and keeps us grounded and we are very often on the same page about our vision.”
The pair now have their sights set squarely on Tokyo 2020 and Sagami Bay off the coast of Enoshima, where the Olympic sailing events will take place. It will not be uncharted waters to the British sailors. Not only did they win the Enoshima Olympic Week in 2017, they have also been regular visitors to the area over the last three years, making friends with the locals and experiencing all the warmth and hospitality that comes with it. They will be hoping that their familiarity with the surroundings will see them prosper when it counts next summer.
Having finished second at London 2012 and the ticking of the clock not lost on Patience, he says he and Grube will head to Tokyo next summer with only one goal in mind.
“I would ultimately love to do this forever, but my mind and body won’t let me. It is really gold medal only as my target for Tokyo.”
Photo credit: Team GB/Sam Mellish