The sport of yachting is not the sport of the common man. At the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the Crown Prince Harald of Norway competed in the 5.5 meter competition, while Prince Bhanubanda Bira of Thailand sailed in the Dragon competition.
So when Keith Musto and Tony Morgan of Great Britain decided they wanted to be on the British sailing team at the 1964 Tokyo Games, competing in the Flying Dutchmen category, they knew that their class and blood was not going to get them there. As Musto said in this video interview, “we felt if we wanted to go to the Olympics, our background probably wouldn’t allow us to be invited to the Olympics. We had to earn our place.”
The first thing they understood was that they were not supreme physical specimens, but that they could work on their strength.
We felt the only way to address that was to be fitter than our competitors. We went up to the local school one evening, and we asked the PE instructor how we could get fitter. And he said, what do you do? What are the body movements? We told him and then he put us through a process for exercises, and finished up by saying, “If you do that every day between now and the Olympics, then you’ll win a medal.” So we did it every day. Christmas Day. Boxing Day. Everyday. Basically it was the start of circuit training as we now know it today.
As Christopher Brasher says in his book, A Diary of the XVIIIth Olympiad, considerable strength is required in competitive sailing.
The crew member in the Star Class spends more of his time outside the boat than inside it. He hooks one leg and one arm over the gunwale and then lowers his body over the side to keep the boat as upright as possible. But he, poor lad, spends most of his time with waves breaking over him. Tony Morgan, the crew member on Lady C, does not get quite so wet because he swings out on a trapeze attached to the top of the mast. But to hold this position for half an hour at a time requires tremendous strength in his stomach muscles and hands. It is no wonder that he has had to train for three years.
What’s fascinating is that, according to Morgan, training hard was frowned upon by his colleagues in the sailing world. Perhaps it was a class attitude, that people of privilege should be effortless in their ways, without a thought of having to or needing to win. Here’s what Morgan said a student colleague said to him regarding the training Musto and Morgan were putting in as preparation for the Olympics:
Keith and I were regarded as a couple of people below the salt on the table. One day we were chastised verbally by the most senior person in the class, saying “I hear you train. We don’t do that.” I said, “I don’t know what you mean.” He said, “I heard you do a hundred press ups. I think this is a very in appropriate way to behave.”
Morgan and Musto of course ignored the naysayers. They were going to train. They were going to be selected to the Olympic team. And they were going to win, no matter what people would think. Musto reflected on that attitude, remembering the moment he entered the National Olympic Stadium that beautiful day of October 10, 1964.
At the Opening Ceremony you were waiting outside for many hours, and when you went in through the main entrance to the arena, it was s tremendous shock, the noise and the atmosphere hits you like a brick wall. It was fantastic. Up on the big notice board was the Olympic motto. I forget the exact wording but it was to the effect of “the spirit is to participate, not to win”. And I thought, “Rhubarb to that. I haven’t come here just to participate. I’ve come here to win.”
But alas, while physical prowess and tactical sailing skills are key to success in sailing, a wind shift here and a lack of wind there can change the fortunes of boats instantly. Ahead throughout the competition, Musto and Morgan thought they had the gold medal wrapped up with two races to go. But in the final of 7 seven races, a mighty wind took the sails of the New Zealand dragon class boat, and sent them flying past the British boat on to gold medal victory.
Disappointed, Musto moved on, knowing that the time in Tokyo was just one moment in a long life. Musto would go on to form a successful global fashion and sailing equipment business called Musto, and never look back.
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