GOOD, BUT GOOD ENOUGH TO BEAT GOODY?
Nick Thompson may not be as well known as Paul Goodison or Tom Slingsby, but unlike these two legends the young Brit is the only Laser sailor to have medalled at both previous World Championships. Goodison will be watching Thompson carefully, knowing that one wrong move could cost the reigning Olympic Champion selection for Team GBR to race the Laser at next year's Olympics. SailJuice asked Thompson how he fancies his chances...
SailJuice: Nick Thompson, in the last couple of years you've established yourself as one of the major players in the Laser. You're obviously gunning for selection for Weymouth 2012 with Skandia Team GBR, but to do that you're going to have to get past the reigning Olympic Champion Paul Goodison, so how's all that going, where's your focus, what's your plan?
Nick: Yeah absolutely, the last couple of years in the Laser for me have been fantastic with great results in both World Championships. I'm certainly sort of progressing in the right direction, but as you say, obviously it's a tough challenge to try and overhaul Paul Goodison and get that just to get that selection spot. At the moment really it's just about focussing on the bigger picture and sort of looking at trying to improve the results from a day to day basis as opposed to looking at just trying to beat him and I know he's probably looking at exactly the same thing. It's about becoming the best sailor in the world, not about sort of beating each other.
SailJuice: And obviously there are other great international sailors in the mix. Tom Slingsby, the guy who just beat you to the World Championship last year at Hayling Island and others that come to my mind, Javier Hernandez from Spain. Tom Slingsby in particular, he's been the man to watch except for that sort of fallow period where he seemed to go off the rails for a year or so, but Tom Slingsby, Paul Goodison, you look at those two you'd hardly imagine that they'd be sailing the same boat. They're pretty different sizes. Tom's a lot bigger than Paul, but where do you fit in to that size wise?
Nick: That's one of the fantastic things about the Laser is that it really does cater for all sort of shapes and sizes and you look at people like Javier Hernandez and he's a really tall guy. Then you look at Tom and he's generally pretty tall and quite well built and then both Paul and I are generally on the smaller side of the fleet, but we still sort of push around the 80kg mark roughly. That's kind of what we consider to be optimum weight for the Laser. So Tom's favourite conditions are breeze and he sort of goes pretty well upwind and that and then Paul's favourite conditions are the light stuff. For myself, I'm generally a bit of an all rounder, that's kind of been one of my main strengths is being consistent in pretty much all conditions, so I think that's a great advantage to have in Weymouth because you really could get anything.
SailJuice: What's your record in Weymouth been like so far?
Nick: Yeah it's not too bad at all. I've been obviously sailing in Weymouth for a long time, but I've won Sail for Gold before here and I've done well in and won a National Champions here and a few other events. So yeah absolutely, my record's pretty good here, but still there's plenty more to learn about the conditions.
SailJuice: Now in terms of the next immediate goal, how important is Skandia Sail for Gold and the Olympic test event beyond that?
Nick: Skandia Sail for Gold regatta is huge. It's really a sort of an opportunity for people to show where they're at and show where they're at on the Olympic water. So it's a big, big event and also important for the British in terms of trying to get your placing with each other, so yeah it's going to be a huge event and I'm sort of very much looking forward to it.
SailJuice: How many places are there for each nation at the test event? Is it one per nation?
Nick: It's one per nation, so yeah it's going to be a tough selection to get that spot.
SailJuice: So it's you against Paul and I don't know if there are others in the mix, are there others to take seriously?
Nick: Yes, there are always other Brits and guys with a lot of talent. There's three guys in the development squad at the moment that showing a lot of potential so yeah it's not just about Paul and I at the moment. We're trying to sort of get as best as we can Internationally, but also we've got to watch our backs because obviously those guys coming up.
SailJuice: So the Brits talk about process goals and performance goals and things like that. Skandia Sail for Gold has got to be all about performance hasn't it? This is about winning it or at least finishing above the other Brits to get through to the next round, which is the test regatta.
Nick: Yeah obviously Skandia Sail for Gold regatta is huge for selection, but obviously we keep our selection process quite close to our chest so we can't announce the official selection process. It will be very very important and it really shows that you can win on the waters that you need to for the Olympics, so yeah, it's a big regatta and I'm looking forward to it.
SailJuice: Am I right in thinking that the last two Laser World Championships that you're the only one to have medalled both times?
Nick: Yeah I think so, yeah. I think you're right. I haven't actually seen myself, but I've believe that's the case, but I'm certainly looking to go one better in the next World Championship.
SailJuice: So you've gone bronze, silver....
Nick: Bronze, silver, so hopefully the next in the process will be the gold.
SailJuice: So you're definitely heading in the right direction, but how much of a sense do you get that Paul Goodison has a head start on you given the fact that he is reigning Olympic Champion and he's been doing it a lot longer than you. How's that sort of background of experience, do you sense that you have to be beating on a regular basis to get selected?
Nick: Yeah, absolutely. It's important. He has experience and he's proven that he can do it on the grand stage of the Olympics. I obviously need to beat him at as many events as I can and it's going to be important, but he's a lot older than I am and I've also been racing for a long time to. I feel that I have a lot of experience myself so, it's a tough one really. It's a kind of a balance between you looking at the guy that can do it at the moment and then there's another guy that could equally do as well potentially and then maybe with a future in mind as well, so it's kind of a tough balance I think.
SailJuice: Yeah. And then looking at beyond Weymouth 2012, whatever comes of that, whether you end up going or not, what plans do you have beyond Weymouth?
Nick: Yeah that's a tough question really. It's certainly going to be another Olympic campaign, but I'd very much like to get involved in some other sailing as well to sort of build up a bit more of a c.v. and do some big boat stuff and then after that who knows really. I'd love to be involved in sailing for the rest of my life, so that's the main goal at the moment.
SailJuice: But you think you're going to come back and do the Laser another time?
Nick: Yeah, obviously the Laser's been selected so it's a class that's definitely in and it's a class I know I can do well in so at the moment yeah. That would definitely be the third option.
SailJuice: You're not going to bulk up for the Finn?
Nick: No I don't think I ever could to be honest. I'd love to, it would be great to get into a Finn and give something else a go, but I certainly don't think I'd ever get to the size required to sail one competitively.
SailJuice: And you talk about a career in sailing. What are you focussed on beyond the Olympics?
Nick: Everyone's goal within sailing is to work within The America's Cup and that's what I'd love to eventually end up doing. To sort of get involved in maybe a TP52 campaign or just something else that's just kind of a bit more, a little bit different to just sailing on my own and that kind of dynamic and working within the team in that way. That's very much something I'd like to do.