Please select your home edition
Edition
Zhik 2022 Choice of Champions LEADERBOARD

Tom Gillard's (almost) perfect 2022

by Mark Jardine 9 Nov 2022 08:00 PST
Tom Gillard and Rachael Gray win Salcombe Gin Merlin Rocket Week 2022 © Dougal Henshall

It's hard to win a major championship, fine tuning your boat, your sailing skills, knowing the venue, and putting in that vital time on the water, but sometimes you get a sailor who puts together a season which on paper looks nearly impossible.

Tom Gillard has done just that in 2022, winning an incredible number of events, in multiple classes, which include World and National Championships. I spoke to Tom about his (almost) perfect year.

It's not one type or style of sailing Tom does. He seems equally as comfortable in single-handers, double-handers, and with his crew hiking or on the trapeze. I was interested as to how he switches between the different techniques needed in each boat:

"I've sailed all these classes for quite a long time. I think having all the settings for the different boats is important, and I remember most of those off the top of my head - I don't write anything down. Making sure all the boats you sail are sorted, in terms of how the systems work, is important, but I don't really do anything different when switching classes. My practice only really consists of boat-handling: lots of tacks, lots of gybes, over and over.

"Each class has its quirks, such as when to go low in the Fireball, and when to head up in the breeze, which is important to get right, working out the best VMG angles upwind and downwind. Using all the boats around you, seeing their angles and how fast they're going is what I use for judgement. In terms of instruments, I take a compass when I'm on the sea, but I leave it ashore if I'm on a lake, as I use land bearings as transits then.

"Working for North Sails it's obviously a massive help to have new sails for each season, and my other sponsors provide nice new masts and fittings for each boat, but also there is a lot of behind-the-scenes work making sure all the boats are right. I sometimes polish three boats simultaneously for a whole day, as I think making sure the bottom of your hull is spotless, and as hydrodynamic as possible, is essential. Your boat doesn't need to look pretty on the top, and most of my boats have dinks and bumps, but the underside is absolutely immaculate on all of them, and my slot-gaskets are perfect.

"Going from one event to another I don't sail before the first race day, as I've done too much sailing and I need some time out of the boat to give myself some mental headspace. It's important not to do too much sailing. An example was the Merlin Nationals, which was straight after the Scorpion Nationals, where Rachael [Gray] and I were sailing both events. Everyone wanted us out on the water for the practice day, but I just said, 'no, I need some time out of the boat'. Rachael had a broken thumb for both events, by the way!"

Planning out a year in multiple classes is complex, as often championships for different boats will be scheduled at the same time. Tom looked at the calendars of the Solo, Streaker, Scorpion, Fireball and Merlin Rocket classes to plan his season:

"It worked out that there were no clashes between the events, which meant I could do them all, so I acquired the boats. I was even trying to find a GP14 for the Worlds, but that was one too many!"

While Tom's 2022 was spectacular, there was one championship that got away, with a runner-up finish in the Streaker Nationals:

"In my defence, I did have mild pneumonia! I've won the Streaker Nationals nine times before, and it would have equalled my dad's tally of ten wins, so I really wanted that one. I probably shouldn't have sailed with the way I was feeling, but I really did want to do it. Martin [Penty] sailed brilliantly, so it wasn't like there wasn't strong competition. He's an ex-Fireball World Champion and a very good sailor."

A good time off the water is just as important as the sailing, so I asked Tom which class, in his opinion, has the best social activities:

"I would say the Scorpion! It's a chilled-out vibe, a nice bunch of people, with newcomers to the fleet alongside old hands, and everybody's very open about what they do to make the boat go fast. It's a real community. The class is going from strength to strength; whether you've got a wooden boat or a fibreglass boat, there's help everywhere, and no-one feels at a disadvantage."

Tom's plans for 2023 aren't quite as smooth as this year due to calendar conflicts:

"There are a few clashes next year unfortunately, so I have to decide which events to do, and see which ones North Sails want me to do but, on the whole, I'll be sailing the same classes as in 2022."

Tom has competed in 25 events this season, winning all but two events, where he finished second. This year he has won the Fireball UK Nationals, the Fireball UK Inlands, the Fireball Worlds, the Solo Nationals, the Solo Nation's Cup in Carnac, the Scorpion Nationals, Salcombe Merlin Rocket Week, the Merlin Rocket Nationals, and the Merlin Rocket Inlands this past weekend. A quite incredible year and easily my vote for best British sailor of 2022.

Related Articles

Continuing to #BackTheBid
A bitter blow when it was announced Para Sailing would not be included in the LA28 Paralympics It was a bitter blow for sailing last week when the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) announced that Para Sailing would not be included in the LA28 Paralympic Games. Posted on 7 Feb
2023 Sarasota Sunshine Sunfish Clinic and Regatta
We talk with Mary Ellen Brown about the 2023 Sarasota Sunshine Sunfish Clinic and Regatta Sail-World checked in with Mary Ellen Brown, Regatta and Clinic chair of the 2023 Sarasota Sunshine Sunfish Clinic and Regatta, via email, to learn more about this mid-winter One Design racing and learning event. Posted on 7 Feb
Book review: Flotsam and Jetsam
A collection of amusing tales from Bob Ross' gossip column I'm not Australian, and yet this collection of bar stories still amused me to read through in my spare moments. To be fair, the local colour was balanced fairly often with tales from international offshore racing and the America's/Admiral's Cups. Posted on 5 Feb
The armchair navigator - imagining life at sea
What does it feel like during The Ocean Race? As the 2023 edition of The Ocean Race fleets tears up the offshore miles separating Cabo Verde from Cape Town, I'll admit that I often find myself daydreaming about what it would be like to foil (or semi-foil) across a wide swath of big blue. Posted on 31 Jan
New Allen blocks at boot Düsseldorf 2023
We speak to Ben Harden about the latest in the range, including the mighty TiiTAN We speak to Ben Harden at boot Düsseldorf 2023 about the new products from Allen, including the redesigned 40mm range, the deck organiser range, the High Roller block range, and the mighty TiiTAN. Posted on 31 Jan
All vessels great and small
January is a great time 'Down Under': Loads of annual regattas for coveted titles January is such a great time 'Down Under': A load of annual regattas for coveted Australian Championships, with many very much steeped in a grand history, and often a World title or two are in there, as well. Posted on 29 Jan
First look at boot: Peacoq foiling doublehander
Video interview with Patrick Billot, the CEO and Founer of Foily Mark Jardine, Managing Editor of Sail-World.com and YachtsandYachting.com, talks to Patrick Billot, the CEO and Founer of Foily, about the foiling Peacoq dinghy at boot Düsseldorf 2023. Posted on 26 Jan
First look at boot: The Tiwal 3R
We speak to Emmanuel Bertrand about the revolutionary inflatable dinghy Inflatables and their use in watersports have come a long way, with inflatable stand up paddle boards and canoes now commonplace. The rigidity though for a performance dinghy has though been a challenge, but the Tiwal 3R addresses that. Posted on 26 Jan
What have we learned from The Ocean Race Leg 1?
How the latest generation of IMOCAs stack up against each other As I outlined a fortnight ago, I was concerned about The Ocean Race, and whether - 50 years on from the first Whitbread - a fully crewed, multi-stopover round the world race in the latest cutting-edge foiling machines was relevant. Posted on 23 Jan
TOR begins, SailGP update, RORC Transatlantic Race
David Schmidt looks at the racing reports relevant to North America Sustained atmospheric rivers may have been pounding the U.S. West Coast for weeks, but things were considerably drier and sunnier this weekend in Alicante, Spain, where the first offshore legs of the 2023 edition of The Ocean Race began on Sunday. Posted on 17 Jan
Hyde Sails 2023 Wuzzos - FOOTERMarine Resources 2022 Salary Survey FOOTERHella Dual Colour Floodlights - 728 x 90px - 1 jpg Bottom