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Allen 2017 A2069 A2169 Quint

The best laid plans... we talk to Tom Gillard about his disrupted 2017 season

by Mark Jardine 15 May 13:00 BST 15 May 2017
Team Allen's Tom Gillard © Mark Jardine / YachtsandYachting.com

Tom Gillard finished 2016 in style, winning the Fireball World Championship with Richard Anderton, but this year started with a serious blow to Tom's campaign after learning that Richard needed an operation on his knee that would put him out of action for a year...

Mark Jardine: You had a very successful end to 2016, winning the Fireball Worlds in South Africa with Richard Anderton.

Tom Gillard: Yes, it was a great event, very windy with beautiful conditions throughout.

Mark: It was a testing event with some seriously big waves at times, but you and Richard seemed to take everything in your stride.

Tom: We're very used to the conditions that we encountered out there. We've sailed in a lot of breezy stuff and we pretty much dominated on the first beats and then extended from there.

Mark: 2017 has started with a serious blow, with Richard having an injury which will put him out of sailing action for over a year. How will that disrupt your sailing schedule?

Tom: It's a huge blow. I was on holiday a earlier this year and he phoned me up and said he's got to go in for a third operation on his knee; effectively his cartilage is so worn out that his bones are nearly touching. That's going to put him out of action for over a year probably.

Mark: While you sail both single-handed and double-handed boats, how are you going to go about finding a new crew in the Fireball and then working together in the same way that you've worked in a team with Richard?

Tom: Time is key. There are three months to go until the Nationals and Europeans at Lyme Regis and we're going to have to put a lot of training in.

Mark: Have you got someone lined up or are you just on the search?

Tom: I have a few names in the pipeline, doing a couple of events with people and seeing where it goes from there.

Mark: You've been a member of Team Allen for a long time now. What aspect of using Allen gear on your boats is most important for you?

Tom: First and foremost, reliability. The Allen kit just never fails. Everything works and you can trust the gear. If you can trust the gear then it's just one less thing on your mind during an event because you know that the equipment is going to perform the way it should.

Mark: If you have equipment failure during an event, what does it mean for that event?

Tom: It's ended effectively. It depends on the breakage but if you're not confident in your kit it means you need to take spares out in the boat, and make sure your toolbox is well kitted up. It's so much better to not break anything!

Mark: So you can concentrate on the sailing, rather than whether the boat is going to get round the course in one piece?

Tom: Absolutely.

Mark: Your 2017 schedule of course includes the Fireball Nationals and Europeans, once you've got a crew sorted. What other events do you have lined up?

Tom: I'm going to do some more 505 sailing. I'm still putting my boat together as I've only done one event in it so far. I've just organised getting another new crew for that as well, so more training involved.

Mark: Do you have any single-handed sailing lined up?

Tom: Not too much. I'm going to do a few Musto Skiff events, but unfortunately I can't do the Worlds in Palma as it clashes with one of the 505 events I'm lined up to do. I might do a couple of Solo events, and I'm going to do the Streaker Nationals as well.

Mark: I remember when we talked last about the Musto Skiff, you were saying it was just a boat for going out for a blast in, but that you'd love to do the Worlds. Is that still something you're learning how to sail, being on the wire while helming?

Tom: It's just a bit of fun at the moment: pure pleasure. You can be on the water within 15 minutes of turning up at the club; pull the main straight up, the kite's already rigged and just go! It's an awesome boat.

Mark: The Streaker, with its anniversary Nationals last year seems to have gone from strength to strength. What is the attraction of that class?

Tom: The main thing about the Streaker is that it's light weight - I think it's 48 kilos - so it's easy to throw about, fast to accelerate and great on reaches. It's quite a forgiving boat and good fun.

Mark: Best of luck firstly finding your crew for the Fireball and 505, and best of luck for your 2017 season.

Tom: Thank you very much.

Find out more about Team Allen at allensail.com/team-allen and about Allen Brothers at www.allenbrothers.co.uk