Tom Phipps Profile
Cornwall’s Tom Phipps is only 19 years old and is already one of the country’s most accomplished sailors. In 2006 he won a Gold medal in the Hobie 16 class at the Youth Sailing World Championships and is now part of the Olympic development squad for the Tornado class. We talk to the young catamaran sailor about his success, hopes and ambitions.
AC: What would you say is your greatest sailing achievement?
TP: The Gold medal in 2006 was certainly a high point because it was in home waters in Weymouth so all my family and friends were there. For every youth sailor this is their goal so it was a sweet victory. It was also a great stepping stone to what I’m doing now.
AC: How many years have you been sailing?
TP: I started when I was five, so a total of 14 years. But even before this I was always around boats as my Mum & Dad ran a sailing school.
AC: How has growing up in Falmouth contributed to your development and success as a sailor?
TP: Our house is right at the water’s edge so it was inevitable really. I’m very lucky that I found a sport I was good at, at such an early age. It’s one of the best locations to do it and I was constantly out on the water, so I got a feel for it really fast.
AC: How do you rate Cornwall as a sailing destination?
TP: It’s fantastic. It’s one of my favourite places to sail. You have the flat water of the Carrick Roads; then when you go out into the Bay, you have waves and big sea sailing. Plus it’s really pretty – I really enjoy sailing here.
AC: Where else in the world do you like to sail?
TP: Lake Garda in Italy is amazing. It’s very scenic and the breeze comes in at the same time every day. It’s Champagne sailing – really enjoyable.
AC: Why did you choose to specialise in Catamaran sailing ?
TP: It was a natural choice because my Dad is a former champion, so I had a personal coach from an early age. But I would have chosen it anyway because it is different and so much faster than any other kind of sailing. It’s also very technical and the racing is very close, so it’s an exciting sport to be involved in.
AC: How did you find the transition between Hobie 16 and the Olympic standard Tornado class?
TP: It was a big step in terms of competition. As a youth I was the best in my class. Now I have to compete against the world’s best seniors. Plus the boats are so finely tuned that the smallest changes can make the biggest difference. There is a lot more to learn which is what makes this class so challenging.
AC: What is your job?
TP: I’m now a full time sailor. I had to stop going to College so I could focus on sailing. I don’t make much money and rely on funding and private sponsors to get through. But I love what I do and I’m so lucky to be able to do it at the highest level.
AC: Who are your sporting heroes?
TP: Ben Ainslie is a big inspiration. He is a two times Gold medallist and also from Cornwall. I’d like to follow in his footsteps.
AC: What are your immediate plans and long-term ambitions?
TP: I want to continue attending as many races as possible to keep my racing edge up and campaign for a place in the Tornado team for the 2012 Olympics. Long term I’d like to get involved with racing Volvo Extreme 40s, which are scaled-up, ocean-going versions of the Tornado.
AC: What advice do you have for youngsters starting who’d like to take up cat sailing?
TP: Get down to your local sailing school . Don’t be afraid to try new things. There is a strong push towards monohulls. But if you really want to sail cats you should. I’m so glad I started early.
* See our Sailing page for more information on Sailing in Cornwall >