Tom Phipps: the young GB sailor focused on Tokyo 2020

WE TALK to Tom Phipps about his sailing career and his aspirations for the Olympics in Tokyo 2020.

Tom Phipps

After narrowly missing out on a place at Rio, Tom Phipps is now focussed on making it to the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.


TOM PHIPPS grew up in a family which owned a sailing school so it’s no surprise he found a passion for the sea and being in command of boats.


One of Tom’s biggest successes in the sport to date saw him win Gold at the Youth Olympics and then pick up the BBC’s Young Sports Personality of the Year award for this achievement. He had made it his ambition to be at Rio this year but after narrowly missing out on a place is now fully focussed on making in to Tokyo in 2020.


In this exclusive interview Tom gives us an insight into the competitive world of sailing as well as outlining his commitment to be ready to compete at Tokyo in 2020 and ensure he has a place on the British team no matter what it takes. 


Read on to be inspired by his passion not only for the sport but also to share the joy its given him with the next generation of sailors.


What was it like growing up in a family who owned a sailing school? Was there ever any doubt you’d pursue a career in the sport?


Growing up as part of my parents sailing school honestly was the best childhood a boy could ask for. I love being in or on the sea regardless of what exactly it is I’m doing, and it brings a smile to my face to reminisce about all the times I was messing about on the beach with, to this day, best friends.


I certainly don’t remember feeling any pressure to be sailing or training as a youngster, which probably has a lot to do with why I’m still so passionate about it now. I remember other children who were pushed harder in their sailing and since then they have burned out and left the sport which is sad.


Where in the world has the sport taken you and what have been your biggest achievements to date?


Sailing is an international sport, so I have been so lucky to visit some incredible places, however for the most part, due to a busy schedule I regretfully don’t have the time to explore them quite as I would like. That said over my travels I have met great friends from all walks of life and one day I will return without my sailing boots, so I can enjoy these awesome places in more of a social explorer capacity.


In getting to where I am now, there have been a lot of bumps in the road. Actually bumps might be an understatement, canyons might be more appropriate! Despite the challenges between myself and a number of team mates I have been lucky enough to have some fantastic results and awards. To date I am most proud of claiming the BBC’s young sports personality of the year SW back in 2006, this came off the back of a hugely successful summer where I secured a gold medal at the youth Olympics.


Tom Phipps

Tom has had a passion for the ocean and sailing since childhood which was aided by his parents owning a sailing school.


Who’s been your biggest mentor in your career and who do you look up to most in the world of sailing?


My father was the man who encouraged me into the sport, and he is as passionate about what I am doing now as he was when I was 5 and drifting around the small harbour for the first time. Both my parents have always been hugely supportive, alongside running their own small business. Honestly I know of no-one who works as hard as them, and I like to think that I have picked up some of that work ethic, which I take directly into my sailing career. The combination of hard work and passion is something neither of my parents lack, if only there was an Olympic sport for small business owners, they would have the gold in the bag!


Tell us about your experience of the Olympics and close you came to competing at Rio this year?


As the new 2016 Olympic cycle began following the London Games I was in a really strong position, I had just graduated from university and was ready to reignite my Olympic dream.


Unfortunately as the four year cycle progressed I was plagued with a number of team mate injuries and issues, forcing me to chop and change between sailing partners. Each time this meant starting again and rebuilding that team and working relationship. As you might imagine at a level where the smallest margins make the difference these continual setbacks didn’t help.


Finally teaming up with a solid keeper, and my current crew Nikki Boniface only a year before the 2016 Olympic trials, we knew we had a mountain to climb in a short space of time. Nikki and I worked relentlessly for a year, and with minimal exterior support we sawed our way up the fleet, only to finish in a close runner-up position in the trials. In sailing only one boat from each country is selected to attend the games, so it was truly heart breaking to just miss out on selection after such progress. However, with a little reflection we began to feel very proud of how far we had come.


Because of the inconsistency before sailing with Nikki, we had limited support during the trials so for the year where we went from having not sailed together to contesting for the one and only Olympic spot, we made most things happen for ourselves. This is a somewhat fulfilling feeling and I am hugely proud of what we managed to achieve. Off the back of our great performance we will now receive more support and were asked to support the chosen Olympic team in training before the games, which was a fantastic experience in itself.


Tom Phipps

Tom’s successes have included him winning Gold at the Youth Olympics when representing the British Sailing Team.


How hard do you train and what does a normal day of training consist of?


As any sports person will tell you (and possibly more so in sailing than other sports) there really is no better way to train than practising the sport itself.


Sailing is a very dynamic sport, we are powered by something we can’t see that is changing all the time, on top of a surface that is constantly moving up and down and left and right. No two days are the same for us, so hours on the water to try and cover as many bases as possible is key. However over the last ten years sailing has become far more of an athlete’s game. The boats are becoming far more physically demanding and the style of racing is getting faster and more frantic. Because of this during my time off the water I have got to know the gym pretty well, We have a team of physiology staff at the British sailing team who constantly monitor and provide us with a weekly training planner. Typically this consists of about eight sessions a week in either cardio work, strength and conditioning training or a core work out.


What is your biggest ambition for the future and do you have any exciting challenges or projects in the pipeline?


Having narrowly missed out on selection for the 2016 Rio games and having had my Olympic appetite wetted as the 2016 training partner, I am 100% focused and committed to the 2020 cycle. Between myself and Nik, we really believe that we are in great shape to represent Team GB at Tokyo in four years time.


Outside of my Olympic endeavours, I also have dreams to inspire and encourage more young people into the sport. Sailing has never had a particularly ‘cool’ reputation but with the introduction of these new very high performance boats, the tide is definitely changing and it seems like the perfect time to discover the next sailing superstar. My aim is to create a dress root academy style system to teach and develop local cornish kids, that might not have had the opportunity to sail otherwise.


To find out more about Tom Phipps go to www.tomphippsracing.co.uk.

Reader Comments

  • Luke Parker

    Great read! Can’t wait to see you sailing in 2020! Good luck.

Share This Article