Matthew Sheahan talks to Sebastian Coe after his sail aboard Victory Challenge on day 1 of Act 11
Success breeds success, as the saying goes. It certainly appeared to today for the Swedish Victory Challenge team who scorched off the start, picked the right side of the beat and left the rest of the fleet to fight it out for the entire race.
Aside from putting points on the board, never had making an impression counted quite so much as today with Sebastian Coe riding as 18thn man aboard their boat.
Aside from Baron Coe’s long list of successes that include, a pair of Olympic golds and a pair of Olympic silvers, one gold, two silvers and a bronze at the European championships, along with eight world records in middle distance track events, his enthusiasm for sailing is probably less well known.
“I sail, but I hesitate to describe it as being on the same planet as these guys today,” he told Yachting World. “I sail working boats and was taught to sail these boats by Arthur West when I moved to Cornwall.”
“But today’s experience was sensational. I think whether it’s a team event or and individual event, seeing people mastering the physicality of an event and the mental approach, it was very clear to me that they were very focussed. They didn’t waste time on things that didn’t really matter and even for somebody like me, I knew that they were a good distance ahead, but they didn’t take anything for granted until they were across the line. So if you said, did they exhibit all the attributes of a winning team, then yes they did.”
So did he think that there were more lessons to be learned through the focussed mental approach that has become more familiar in Olympic circles?
“I can’t really comment on sailing as I don’t know the detail of this sport, but the difference between winning and losing when everyone’s got the same technology and everybody’s using the same science based training schedules and have all got their conditioning coaches, nutritionists and the rest, then the mental side is probably the difference. I think that no sport can ever afford to leave any stone unturned, least of all getting guys into the right frame of mind to compete at the very highest level.”
Having spent his sporting career racing in a team of one, had he ever considered the prospect of a team sport?
“Athletics is a very peculiarly individual sport but you also have a team in the background that few people ever think of in track and field such as a coach, a conditioning coach, a nutritionist a physiologist and so on. When I was out on the track I was the grinder and the tactician and the helmsman, that was all contained in one person. But I’ve often thought that it would be nice to have been involved in a really slick operating team.”
Given the cross pollination of information across a range of sports, is there a convergence among sportsmen and women?
“I think there are disciplines that are common to all. If you’ve got guys out there on Cup boats that are shifting tonnes of weight, then you’re talking about needing very specific strengths from particular muscles. All that stuff is pretty common to many sports. Interestingly, in this respect track and field was the template. If you look at someone like Clive Woodward, who I know very well and was at college with, Clive’s approach to structuring training schedules was what he understood from what we were doing in track and field. Clive would come and watch us in the weights room, sit at the side of the track and watch the kind of things we did.
“I think there is now a commonality from one sport to another. I’m probably biased, but I think that track and field and cycling set the standard in terms of conditioning.
“Take rugby for example. Thirty years ago you’d see big fat guys wandering around in the middle of the pitch, their main role was to break up the game, but today they look far more like decathletes. I’m sure this will be the same for sailing too.”
Disappointing news perhaps for those who enjoy après race?
“You can pick your level of sailing, just not out there!”