We continue David Wilkins story ...

Part 1 is HERE if you want to start at the beginning :)

As we look ahead to the summer’s Tokyo Olympics (starting on 24 July), we sat down with David Wilkins, Ireland’s first sailing silver medallist, to talk about Olympics past and present. 

David Wilkins won a silver medal in the 1980 Olympics in the Flying Dutchman with crew James Wilkinson. He is also one of only two Irish five-time Olympians, representing Ireland at the Olympics of 1972, 1976, 1980, 1988 and 1992.

How do you think the sport of sailing has changed since your first Olympic Games and now ?

Preparation then was left to the individual. Sailing, like most sports, got very little support from NGBs (National Governing Bodies) as they just did not have the money, and there was little from the government and politicians. There were no professional sailors and no support structures – we had full time careers and had to negotiate time off to train. And we were completely self-funded.  In those days James Wilkinson and I were both based in the UK, and we trained with the British Flying Dutchman class. Generally speaking, sailing in the Eastern Bloc countries were well funded because the competitors were part of the armed forces, as were sailors in France, Germany, Spain and Italy. But sailors in Ireland, the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand were not. It was all down to the individuals to fund and organise their own Olympic campaigns. It wasn’t until the 1992 Olympics when some elements like clothing and equipment could be sponsored. Back in 1980 our boat was funded by Irish philanthropists living in the UK.  

I look at the Irish Sailing Performance Team now and I’m really impressed with the work they’ve done; the training they do here and overseas. They have a very strong strategy and a good plan to maximise our chances of winning medals. The teams have far greater access to very good coaches, fitness and nutrition support, and they understand the need to bring on young and up and coming sailors into the Olympic Development squad as early as possible. Mixing the young up and coming sailors with the current Olympic aspirants helps to achieve the massive learning curve that all sailors must achieve to be able to compete at the highest level.

I also love the Performance HQ – I think it’s fantastic. It allows all the teams to get together, train together and inspire each other.

The problem I see is still funding. If the teams can’t get state funding, then they need more commercial sponsors and philanthropists, and that’s difficult.

And you can watch David and James Wilkinson winning their silver medal at the 1980 Moscow Olympics here:

You can hear more from David here in a recent interview with the Olympic Federation of Ireland: