Interview with Paul Brotherton 

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Paul Brotherton is the only sailor to have won medals at both 470 and 49er World Championships while he also finished 6th in the 470 at Barcelona 1992 with Andy Hemmings.  After turning his hand to coaching, Brotherton was the fourth member of Sarah Ayton’s all-conquering Beijing 2008 Yngling gold medal winning team before in October 2009 he teamed  back up with Mark Asquith, who he had previously sailed with from 1998 – 2003, to launch a London 2012 49er campaign.

“I feel very, very lucky to have the opportunity to be sailing with Mark again and I'm enjoying my sailing more than I ever have. What happens on the water doesn't define my life anymore. When I first started sailing the 470 I experienced a much bigger range of emotions attached to success and failure but when you attach that much value to the final outcome it's difficult to sail with any freedom, you're almost sailing scared, and that's not fun.

“We won gold in Hyeres in April, which was our first win since getting back together, and I enjoyed that as a much shorter burst of satisfaction that we had been able to execute what we had been working on. Likewise if we hadn't succeeded I wouldn't have been in the doldrums for two weeks, I would have been disappointed but able to look objectively at what we needed to do to be better.

“I'm a much better sailor now for having coached the Yngling girls and been part of the incredible success they had. Growing up Jim Saltonstall was the person who put the fire in my belly for sailing and gave me the tools to be able to do something like this. But after Jim, Sarah Ayton has been the biggest influence in my career. She illustrated absolutely clearly the work-rate and commitment it takes to succeed at this level and she's just brilliant at consistently being able to cut through the very complex set of opportunities you get in your training programmes to identify the one thing that really counts and exploit it for its maximum potential. She's almost pathological in her requirement that things get done but she does it all with a smile on her face and an energy and enthusiasm. Mark and I try our best to behave in the same way and emulate the way she operates every day.

“It is a bit odd seeing Sarah campaigning the 470 now and not being involved. There was such a close relationship between Sarah, Sarah Webb, Pippa Wilson and I, we brought out the best in each other. Sarah is now sailing with Saskia (Clark), who is just a fantastic person and great athlete, and there's no-one better to be coaching them in the 470 than Joe Glanfield. I do feel myself wanting to help sometimes but it has to be on their terms; an odd comment here or there can be the wrong thing to say so if they want my input on something they know they can ask but I won't force it on them.

“Skandia Sail for Gold is the big one for Mark and I this year. We're doing an Olympic campaign and we want to establish a history of doing well on the waters at Weymouth and Portland not as any statement of intent to anyone else but for ourselves and our own confidence. There's an extraordinary amount of talent and experience in the 49er squad; we enjoy sailing a fantastic boat, there's great camaraderie in the squad and, at the right times, we have a laugh together. But we also all have the same goal; we don't just want to go to an Olympics we want to win a gold medal and the team that is selected has to be the team that is best prepared to win that gold medal. Focussing simply on selection would be completely the wrong level of motivation and that goes for every class.

“Mark and I are giving it everything we've got to be that top 49er boat but if at the end of the day another team is better armed than us to win gold I will shake them by the hand and say ‘Go and do it.' I've been in the situation where I've sailed back in at an Olympic regatta having not won a medal and that's very difficult to do. I've also been in the coach boat when the girls have sailed across the finishing line in China and won gold, which was the most satisfying moment I've experienced in my career to date, and I know to do that you have to have the highest possible level of preparation.

“London 2012 is the direction we're heading in and the ultimate motivator for the whole Skandia Team GBR team but it's not the focus of what we do day in, day out. Our focus is consistently and constantly applying what we're trying to do to be as good as we can be. I can watch other sports on TV and be completely overwhelmed by the emotion of it but sailing is my job and I can't afford to let emotion cloud my focus and get dewy-eyed about big dreams and ambitions. The Olympics are wonderful but for the time being I just have to remember my wetsuit boots every morning!”

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