Tom Burton ran away with victory at the Sailing’s World Cup event in Miami at the end of January, a result which surprised even the reigning Olympic Champion himself. “I was using a charter boat in Miami,” says the Australian sailor. “I guess a lot of the other guys were using charter boats too, but this definitely wasn’t the world’s best boat and I was getting my arse handed to me in the training sessions leading up to the regatta. So I was surprised that I ended up winning the event the way I did.”
The regatta started out light, and Burton wonders whether having a slow boat forced him to take more risks than he’d usually be comfortable with. “I was definitely doing some things that I probably normally wouldn't do, but it paid off. I guess it forced me into trying a few things that maybe other people do every day.”
That learning experience might feed into Burton’s quest to win a first world title. He’s won the big one, the Olympic Games at Rio 2016, he’s won numerous World Cup events, but for 2018 the big goal is to top the podium at the World Championships this August in Aarhus, Denmark. “I've been pretty consistent at the Worlds. I think I've got eight results in the top ten and four in the top three, but never the number one spot so that'll be the goal for 2018.”
Asked what he’s going to do differently, Burton thinks for a while before answering. “More mental than anything. Normally I'm pretty well dialled in for knowing what my body needs, to make sure I’m fit enough to be fast enough to go well at the Worlds. But being mentally prepared enough to make the big decisions when it matters the most, I guess. The World Cup events happen every few months, and the Olympics happens every four years, so the events that are further apart, there’s an added pressure that goes with that because you’ve got fewer shots at getting it right. That’s what the Worlds feels like, because it only comes around once a year.” The key to doing well in these high-pressure regattas is knowing when to sail within your limits, race conservatively for small gains and minimise the losses; and then there are those other times when you have to go with your gut and take a few risks. That’s what racing the slow charter boat in Miami might have taught Burton. “As long as I can turn that on sometimes and then know when to dial it back again, that could be the key to doing well.”
The first month after winning gold at the Olympics was a green and gold blur of a celebration tour around Australia with medal winners from other sports. When Burton finally got home to Sydney, it was time to relax and grab some hard-earned rest, and a break from campaigning the Laser. Only now, with two and a half years go to Tokyo 2020, is he really winding back up to full campaign speed along with the other world-class Aussies that he’ll have to beat for national selection, including the very quick Matt Wearn.
To read the rest of this article go to the Star Sailors website here: SLOW BOAT SETS BURTON ON THE WINNING TRACK