Paul Wyeth / Skandia Team GBR

470 supreme team

Luke Patience and Joe Glanfield tell us of their new partnership

Monday March 4th 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom

The 470 has been in the Olympic Games since 1976 and split into separate male and female classes since 1988. Throughout that time Olympic Gold has never been won by a British team, something that there is a stronger than ever appetite to put right come Rio 2016. In fact Skandia Team GBR is getting something of a reputation for always winning silver, as best demonstrated at London 2012 when British crews stood on the second tier of the podium in both classes. But the 'bridesmaid' status is particularly strong in the Men class, where Britain has taken silver in four of the last five Games (starting with John Merricks and Ian Walker in Atlanta).

Now perhaps, in the build up to Rio 2016, Team GBR has the best prospects of finally gaining the top podium tier in three and a half year’s time with the announcement over the weekend that London 2012 silver-winning helmsman Luke Patience is teaming up with Joe Glanfield, Britain’s 470 Men's crew in Sydney, Athens and Beijing, he and Nick Rogers winning silver in the latter two.

So following Patience’s London 2012 crew Stu Bithell migrating to the 49er after the two realised mutually that they would be too heavy to compete together again in the 470 for Rio, was Glanfield Patience's only option?

“We had a lot of discussions over the autumn,” says Patience. “It was something that had been playing on Joe’s mind to come back to the sport, so we spoke about the way in which we’d run the campaign and how we’d do it. We decided that it was right for both of us and here we are. There are obviously many great sailors in our country and many to choose from, but once me and Joe started talking it felt like a bit of a no brainer for me. I wouldn’t have wanted to work with anyone else as much as Joe and he was certainly the first choice. I am pleased to say that we both thought that.”

Certainly there are not too many other double Olympic silver medallist 470 crew kicking around the UK.

Glanfield returns to the wire having spent the London 2012 cycle as a coach, in particular for Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark, a vital part of the girls' silver medal-winning campaign. He is smaller and lighter than Bithell, and while Bithell was a contemporary of Patience (now 26), at 33 Glanfield is a generation older than his helm and comes with a wealth more experience at the top of the 470 class. “Together we are the right size for Rio, so we feel like we have got the right ingredients in all aspects of the campaign and it is about making it happen now. It is in our control now to do something about it.”

Aside from the age difference and that Glanfield, heralding from Exmouth, isn’t a ‘northerner’ as Bithell was, Patience observes that there are great similarities between his past and present crew. “It is new and fresh, but I guess Joe is not a million miles from Stu in the sense that Stu is a great tactician, as is Joe, Stu was the logical grounded one in our boat as is Joe. But obviously Joe is a different person and it happens on board in a different way. His success hasn’t come by chance - he knows what he is doing and he has seen a lot of over the years. I feel like I have seen a lot, but he has been doing it far longer.” To date Patience says there have been no surprises in the 12-13 days they’ve sailed together down at Team GBR’s new base in Murcia in the south of Spain.

The Men’s 470 squad is looking quite different for this cycle with not only Bithell heading for the 49er, but also former 470 World Champion helm Nic Asher. His former crew, Elliot Willis, has now teamed up with Nick Rogers.

However the British squad is not alone in the musical chairs going on between its 470 helms and crew with Australian double gold medallist Malcolm Page retiring, but his helm, Mat Belcher, continuing with Will Ryan. The French and Spanish crews have also changed, while the leading Argentinean and Croatian teams are continuing. As Patience puts it: “The depth of the fleet is still present.”

While we believe that American Morgan Reecer, himself the silver medal-winning helmsman at the Barcelona Games, was instrumental to Patience and Bithell’s success at London 2012, at present he isn’t in the British coachboat, the experienced Steve Lovegrove back instead. “Steve is a great guy, he has seen the 470 a lot, he is passionate about the boat, he used to sail it, he is a great guy to have on board and he’s got a good technical head on him,” says Patience. “He’s very structured and goal driven. He fits right in with how we want to work. He is a good asset to the team.”

Patience also observes that his requirements have changed from four years ago. “I am not an ‘almost Olympian’, now I have got one Olympics under my belt, with a success, with a medal, so I am slightly more qualified than I was before the last Games, to understand what it takes to win a gold medal.”

Rio 2016 remains a long way away off and Patience doesn’t given the impression that he has any fear of burn-out or wanting to pace himself en route to Brazil. “It is a long way away and this is a long game, but we have to stay in the 'here and now'. We are motivated, but what drives is closer to home than that: We have the World Championship this year and we want to get a place where we want to dominate the fleet. There is no guarantee that we will, but we want to get to that place, and that motivates us every day as well as the Olympic medal. It is about trying to be the best two 470 sailors that we possibly can be, that is our drive.”

Glanfield explains more about his return to 470 sailing in his blog, but points out that it has been four years now since he sailed with Nick Rogers, so it is not like he has suddenly jumped ship. “There are a lot of similarities between them. They are both people who are very good at steering the boat, they are very accurate and they know how to set up the 470 properly and they are both very enthusiastic people.

"One thing that I have really felt from Luke since I’ve started sailing with him was just his enthusiasm to train and to work hard and to go sailing. They are different people definitely, but in terms of the way they sail the boat and the way they want the boat to be sailed they are quite similar.”

Glanfield adds that it is too early to be talking Olympic gold medals, even though on paper Patience and he are the hot ticket. "Obviously gold is the ultimate goal, but at the moment I have to get all the basics back again. So my thoughts are far from that, but very much on just trying to get my fitness level back and to create a team with Luke and have good communication in the boat and get my movement around the boat better again. There will be plenty of time to think about gold...”

Saying this, having previously returned home with two silvers, Glanfield is more than aware what it takes to go that step further. “I think it is really important at this stage that we try to think creatively, imaginatively, because at the end of the day the British haven’t ever won gold in this class. So we need to do something different, we need to do something better otherwise we are not going to win gold. So at this stage we are really trying to think about how we want to go about our campaign and what skills we are going to need to have come the Olympics.”

So has 470 sailing changed much in the last four years? “Probably the biggest change is that there is more kinetics involved particularly upwind because you are allowed to pump in lighter wind,” says Glanfield. “That is a big change for me because I am going to have to be fitter than I was and that will take up more of my time and that’s how I’ve been spending my time over the last couple of months, because I didn’t keep my fitness up while I was coaching.”

And weird sailing against Nick after a decade together? “It is sort of weird, but it’s not like I’ve gone straight from sailing with Nick to sailing with Luke. We have done some training days together which went quite well. For me Nick will always be a best friend, someone I really respect and really like and I enjoy his company and I enjoy training with him.”

Despite the large number of crew changes across the upper echelons of the 470 Men’s class, Glanfield still reckons that the Aussies, gold medallists in the last two Olympiads, will still be the team to beat, even though the legendary Page has retired. “Malcolm is an amazing 470 sailor and I really admired the way he and Mat sailed last year, but Mat is back and he’s back with a decent crew and their coach Viktor [Kovalenko – ‘the medal maker’] and you have to imagine that they are going to be the boat to beat. As ever I think the Aussies will put together a strong Olympic campaign as will a few of the other countries as well.”

Watch out to see how Patience and Glanfield get on when they line up on the international stage for the first time at the Princess Sofia Trophy at the end of this month.



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