Yachts & Yachting magazine

PLAYING CATCH-UP

From beneath his Australian team cap, Tom Burton squinted into the sunlight and cast his eyes over the waters of Guanabara Bay. The date was Tuesday 16 August 2016, with only moments to go before the starting sequence got underway for the Laser medal race at the Rio Olympics.

Second so far in the 46-boat fleet, Burton had had what he calls “a reasonable regatta”, posting six single-digit finishes. Ahead of him was the Croatian sailor Tonci Stipanovic, with 57 points. Burton had 67 and behind him was Sam Meech, from New Zealand, on 77.

“So Tonci and I were guaranteed medals,” Burton recalls. “The colour was another matter.

“For me to win gold, if I won the medal race, Tonci needed to be sixth or worse in the 10-boat fleet.

“The chances of that were slim, I thought, perhaps one in 10. I knew that I needed to bury him in the pre-start, but cross the line in contact with the other eight boats.”

Looking back today on the few moments that followed, Burton talks with candour and humour. He admits it was the most important race of his life, even if it turned out

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