SportsAid athletes Tom Darling and Crispin Beaumont followed in the footsteps of Olympic champions Ben Ainslie and Giles Scott by winning gold at the Aon Youth Sailing World Championships towards the end of last year. Ben and Giles, both previous SportsAid recipients, also kicked off their careers with victories at the Youth Sailing World Championships.
The Championships contains the world’s leading sailors aged 18 and under, and is seen as a proven talent indicator. The victory secured by British Youth Sailing Team's Tom and Crispin, both 18, came in dramatic circumstances in the 29er Boys event. They went into the final race trailing Gwendal Nael and Lilian Mercier of France by four points.
Having crossed the finish line in third, Tom and Crispin had an agonising wait before they were confirmed as champions following Nael and Mercier’s 10th placed finish. Nael and Mercier took silver and Argentinian duo Santiago Duncan and Elias Dalli claimed bronze as Tom and Crispin celebrated victory.
Tom and Crispin both go to university in Southampton and are supported by SportsAid. Crispin has been helped by the charity since 2013 while Tom was one of the first beneficiaries of Sport England’s Backing The Best programme with SportsAid in 2016. Here are their thoughts after their World Championship success….
What are your feelings now looking back on winning the Youth Sailing World Championships? Had this been a long-term aim?
TD: The Youth Worlds was the last event we could compete in sailing the 29er before we became too old. We knew we were going as one of maybe three favourites so we were definitely looking to win and finish our youth sailing on a high. We unfortunately missed out on selection to compete the previous year, so we spent 2016 training hard with the goal of proving ourselves when we finally had the opportunity.
CB: Winning the Youth World Championships still hasn't really sunk in yet. With it being the pinnacle of youth sailing it had always been an aspirational dream. Winning it has given me so much confidence going forward and it is something I will always look back on with fondness.
How much do you enjoy working in a team together? What different qualities do you feel you bring?
TD: Crispin and I have known each other for so long, racing against each other when we 11-years-old, that by now lots of what we do is intuitive. We spend a lot of time together at university, competing and socialising, that we are now best friends on top of team-mates. I bring the cool and logical head to the boat, always calming Crispin down when the racing is tough or not going our way. My role is to make the boat go fast whereas Crispin’s is to steer and choose the correct path around the course; doing this he needs to read the wind, the tide and the other competitors. These are all out of his control so it can become stressful when it doesn’t play out.
CB: Working in a team is always going to be hard because no one has the same opinions on everything. However, we work well because Tom is my best mate on and off the water, working with someone who you are so close to makes everything easier. We have one of the closest bonds between team-mates on the circuit which means we are always concentrating on the racing and not being side-tracked by issues between ourselves. When racing Tom is very much a calming factor while I make sure we are going through the processes.
You have both been supported by SportsAid been to you – how important has the financial help and recognition been to you?
TD: The Backing The Best programme made a huge difference to our 2016 campaign as I could fund travel to the competitive international events in the build-up to our World Championships. This allowed us to race against the best sailors across the continent, improving our skills tackling the fierce competition away from home. The funding also allowed for new sails and rigging for the World and Europeans so our equipment was at a high level, aiding our performance.
CB: SportsAid has been fantastic in helping me achieve my goals, I remember in 2014 my parents were struggling to fund my sailing and it was close to calling the whole thing quits. The grant helped me carry on.
You’re now studying at university together – how have you found balancing all your different commitments?
TD: University can certainly take hold of your life if you become overwhelmed by the work and fall behind. Good time management has allowed for me to stay on top of my course whilst sailing every weekend. I find that a healthy social life is also important, as seeing friends and having fun give you the positive mentality to keep going when you’re working really hard.
CB: Going to university was a big change and meant there was a lot going on which could distract from training. However, going to the same university as Tom meant we could train harder leading up to the event.
What are your overall ambitions in sailing?
TD: I rarely look too far into the future with my sailing and what I hope to achieve. There are so many opportunities for me to compete at different levels, in different classes and with different people that I focus on each event as it comes. At my age, I wish to keep learning every time I go out on the water and that should lead to plenty of big things in my future. Of course, the Olympic Games and the America’s Cup are the pinnacle achievements in sailing and if I was lucky to enough to compete at either of them it would be incredible.
CB: The dream for most athletes is always to go to the Olympics - at the moment we are going to do our degrees but we are currently trying to get funding to purchase a new class of boat to compete on the Olympic circuit. Due to us being part-time it is hard for us to set specific goals just yet.
What will you do to #SupportTheNext generation of British sporting heroes? SportsAid needs your help to ensure talented athletes like Holly can continue receiving the support they rely on. To donate, please text ‘NEXT01 £5’, ‘NEXT01 £10’ or as much as you can give to 70070.
PHOTO CREDIT - PEDRO MARTINEZ/SAILING ENERGY/WORLD SAILING