Sailing to win: interview with Olympic hopeful Stevie Morrison

Yachtsman Stevie Morrison and his sailing partner Ben Rhodes are aiming for Olympic gold in the 49er class of the sailing next year. He was born in Eastbourne and his earliest sailing exploits were in Sussex

Yachtsman Stevie Morrison and his sailing partner Ben Rhodes are aiming for Olympic gold in the 49er class of the sailing next year. He was born in Eastbourne and his earliest sailing exploits were in Sussex. His father Phil is a leading boat designer and racer himself. Here Stevie tells us about his life and his hopes for next year

How long have you been sailing with Ben?

Properly we started sailing together in 2002.

Does sailing run in the family?

My family had always been heavily involved with sailing, my dad was a sailmaker down in Polegate, which is just outside of Eastbourne and then we moved to Exmouth when he had a business opportunity with sailing and sail-making and boat designing, so I’ve always been around the marine trade.

Do you and Ben find that you know what the other will do on the boat almost without thinking?

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Yeah, too much actually, and it’s something we’re working on at the moment.  We’ve sailed together so much. I couldn’t tell you exactly what those nuances are, it’s just that a lot goes unsaid.  It does mean that when it isn’t going well, you don’t necessarily come to the right answers. 

We’ve got a new coach at the moment and he’s been the first one to really see that.  That’s an area we’re working on and by ‘using the force’ a bit less we can raise our game to the next level.

How about 2012?

I think to be honest Ben and I have always been far more focused on 2012 than on getting there.  I think if we can focus on 2012 and what we need to do, then that’s our chance of winning a medal at 2012. If you tell me now that I’m going to come fourth in 2012, then send someone else.  I don’t want to go. That probably sounds very negative when you hear a lot of people talking about the dream of going to the Olympics.  If I go to 2012 and end up coming fifth but I’ve given it my all and I thought I was in the perfect place then I will have enjoyed the experience. 

But I want to go where I start the first day believing that we’re good enough to win the gold medal.  For Ben and I that’s what it’s about.  We’ve got to be focussed on 2012 and let the selection take care of itself which we think it will.

Do you have any particular sailing memories of the Sussex coast?

I did an event when I was about 18 or 19 – I went back and my dad had designed a boat called an RS400 which is quite a well-used boat these days, and there was an event in those. 

Dad was sailing with the guy who built the boat, and we’d managed to borrow an old boat from somewhere, me and a friend of mine, David Brown, who was from Burnham on the east coast. So we sailed in Pevensey Bay and we had a great time. I don’t know where we came – I think we came second. I think my dad beat me but we’ll overlook that one! 

It’s a great bit of coast to sail on – there’s some tricky launching there off those shingle beaches, but that whole area of Eastbourne and Pevensey Bay is a brilliant place to sail.

Is competing at an Olympics on British waters more significant?

I think it will be an amazing experience. I didn’t do a great job last time around in that I shut off that experience and tried to ignore the fact that it was the Olympics and I kind of just tried to make it like a sailing event anywhere.

Other than the fact that I had to wear a tracksuit – which I wouldn’t normally choose to wear on a given day – there wasn’t an awful lot that was different about it in my head and I guess really I missed the experience of the Olympics, which is one of my regrets I suppose and was a bit of a shame in hindsight.

Sailing in Weymouth where we’re used to sailing is a great opportunity in terms of us winning a medal – it gives Ben and I a good confidence boost.  We have always done well here – it’s where we won our first major Championships, the Europeans, the only time they’ve been here in recent years.  We’ve won a medal at Skandia Sail for Gold every year bar one in the last six years, and a lot of those were gold medals. 

Stevie Morrison sails as part of Skandia Team GBR the British sailing team in Olympic and Paralympic classes, the team is sponsored by investment specialist Skandia. For more on Stevie and the team visit www.skandiateamgbr.com 

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