Past Olympian: Keith Musto 

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Keith Musto hit the headlines at Tokyo 1964 when he and crew Tony Morgan claimed Britain’s only sailing medal of the Games; a silver in the Flying Dutchman two-person heavyweight dinghy class. A year later Keith established the Musto sailing brand and now, aged 74, he is retired from the Musto business and is more likely to be found at the helm of his motorboat than a dinghy.

 

Interview with sailing legend Keith Musto


Bitten by the Olympic bug

I was a young lad at the Cadet Nationals at the Royal Corinthian YC in Essex when Group Captain Haylock addressed us all before the first race saying we were the future of British yachting and if we wanted to be Olympic gold medallists of the future it was in our hands. That struck a real chord with me.

In 1958 my club leant me a Finn and although I was too light to really excel in the boat it got me competing internationally and the insight I got into Olympic classes sailing was invaluable.

I was working as an engineer and sailing was what you did at weekends while in any spare time you would work on getting your boat up to scratch. The enthusiasm for getting out on the water was great because the time was so limited.

In 1961 Tony and I were offered the chance to sail an old Flying Dutchman (FD). Because we were so light our stamina needed to be better than our rivals so we went to our local gym and asked for advice on how to get fit. This was before the days of fitness programmes but we were told ‘If you do these exercises every night for the next three years you’ll win something’. That was all the motivation we needed. After disappointment in the Finn I’d been given another opportunity and wanted to make the most of it. Winning Olympic gold was the goal.

Our homes became multi-purpose gyms. The kitchen table was used for pull-ups, I used the stairs for step-ups I even reconstructed the side deck of the FD in the lounge to see how long I could sit out.

Tokyo 1964 – living my Olympic dream

Walking into the Olympic Stadium for the Opening Ceremony is one of those things you can never forget, the atmosphere just hits you like a brick wall. It’s an incredible privilege to be able to witness it from that level.

I remember the big screen having the Olympic motto on about it not being about the winning but the taking part and I thought ‘Rhubarb to that! I haven’t come to take part I’ve come to win!’

We went into the last race in Enoshima not knowing where we were lying or who our main competitors were. We only discovered we’d won silver when we came ashore and were bitterly disappointed. That still rankles today. But there are many happy memories too and it was a tremendous privilege to have sailed in an Olympics.

Keeping my feet on the ground

When I arrived home I was quite conscious I wasn’t going to let winning an Olympic medal change my life. It was just a moment in my life, nothing more and nothing less. Nowadays that may be different because of the commercial value attached to being an Olympic medallist but this was before sponsorship and endorsements.

The business came about after the Games because I very much liked engineering and for £100 you could start up with a roll of cloth and a machine and make a sail. I carried on sailing but my main reason for competing was the FD class was the most lucrative class we made sails for so while we were giving competitors tried and tested sails we were experimenting with new designs, which weren’t always successful!

I went to Munich 1972 and Montreal 1976 as reserve to Rodney Pattison in the FD class so I consider myself very fortunate.

London 2012 – welcome to Weymouth and Portland

I’m really excited about 2012. I’d love to see Ben Ainslie win a fourth gold medal. He doesn’t get enough credit for what he’s achieved and it was nice to hear Jacques Rogge, the president of the IOC, say after Beijing 2008 that Ben’s achievements were on a par with those of the swimmer Michael Phelps and sprinter Usain Bolt. Lucy Macgregor’s progress in the women’s match racing is also really exciting; it’s super to see talented young people like her given a chance.

When I was campaigning we received sufficient funding from the RYA to cover travel costs to the European and World Championships, for example, but other than that we had to scratch along.

But the success Britain’s had over the past decade is because we started putting the work in 30 years ago with the likes of Jim Saltonstall getting a handle on the RYA’s youth training programme. We can’t look back at what we’ve achieved; we have to keep looking forward at what we can do to stay ahead. We have more sailing clubs in Britain than any other European country and the States, while given the size of Britain there can be a lot of high quality frequent competition. Getting children into these clubs and enjoying the sport is the key.

I enjoyed seeing the increased use of video cameras, tracking and more sailor interviews at last year’s Skandia Sail for Gold regatta and this is where the sport needs to head if we’re going to keep people interested. Drawing people in to these big events is a must but it’s a battle worth fighting for the long-term good of our sport.

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