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6: Route to the top

Whatever aspect of racing you choose, the best way to get to the top is to give yourself as broad and diverse experience as possible, sailing in a variety of places, in different boats and with a range of different people. This will also make it easier when you come to want to change classes. And do as much sailing as possible — practice is enormously valuable — which won’t be a hardship if you get smitten by the sailing bug!

As a teenager I was given a piece of advice by John Chittenden, who later skippered the winner of the first BT Global Challenge race, that has stood me in very good stead over the years: ‘A good sailor is one who looks back at what they’ve just done and asks: “How could I have done that better?”’ This works on all levels, whether you’re a complete novice, or a seasoned professional sailor with a string of medals. To me it also sums up one of the most fascinating aspects of the sport — while it’s possible to participate fully with relatively little experience, there are always new things that can be learnt and different approaches to problems with which to experiment, no matter how successful you are.

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In the past, sailing with friends was the route through which most people were introduced

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