The biggest strength of RSX Windsurfing's Mr Nice Guy is an ability to switch on and off at will

“You wouldn’t know we are sailors. We don’t wear branded clothing, we have no pictures of sailing, no sailing mementos.” So explains Nick Demspey of the Weymouth house he shares with his wife, Olympic double medallist Sarah Ayton. It is one hint of the many differences between Dempsey and most of his peers. Dempsey has an on/off switch which is at the heart of both his character and his success.

Quietly spoken, relaxed and with a big infectious smile, Dempsey is Mr Nice Guy. It’s impossible not to warm to him instantly – you can’t imagine him having enemies. Even those that he has beaten on the water have a deep respect for him. They know he has been there and experienced the intoxicating highs and the deep dark lows.

His recent Olympic track record illustrates this perfectly. A 4th at the last Games – failing to win a medal by such a slim margin despite such high hopes – would have many competitors’ confidence in tatters. For Dempsey it was the catalyst to fight back and he won the World Championships in 2009.

A career that began in 1999 has been showered with medals at major regattas, mostly Gold, but he has just one Olympic medal, a Bronze from 2004. For all his casual demeanour, it’s clear he wants a Gold.

But compared with the pace of Olympic classes like the Star and the Finn, the routine of boardsailing seems laid back. “We burn 4,000 calories when we’re training, which by the end of the day adds up to around 5,500,” he says. “There is only so much training you can do at 80 per cent of your heart rate. Four hours a day of hard training is about it.”

Yet family life is clearly at the centre of Dempsey’s world. Infatuated with his wife and young son Thomas, he does not hesitate to explain how important time away from sailing is to him and how he likes to spend it.

“We try to take ourselves out of the Olympic bubble when we have the time. We head to either London in the winter or Cornwall in the summer, surfing and windsurfing. We spend a lot of time at St Ives.

“When Sarah was campaigning, we were two separate people doing two very intense things, living the Olympic life and nothing else. Since Thomas, it has changed the way we are and brought us together.”
The perfect balance? In many ways, but Dempsey readily admits one weakness has troubled him for years: “I have no plan B.”

Maybe he doesn’t need one.

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Olympic profile: Nick Dempsey part two
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