MARK ASQUITH has hit out at the public perception of sailors as he aims for Olympic glory with the Canadian national team.
The Fareham sailor has expressed belief that the understanding of sailors is far from the truth.
He also noted the years of sacrifice and dedication that went into his career at the top level, which has included silver medals at the 2007 World Championships and 2009 europeans in the 49er class.
‘There is an immediate stigma that we are living the life, from wealthy backgrounds or family money – but that’s certainly not the case for most sailors,’ said Asquith,
‘Not everybody sees the amount of work that goes into a proper campaign – the commitment is enormous and normally on a shoestring budget.
‘You have to put your life totally on hold just to chase that little Olympic dream.’
Having last sailed competitively in 2011 following a futile bid to be selected for the London Olympics, Asquith is now aiming for success as coach of the Canadian Olympic team’s Skiff sailors.
But after being ensconced for almost two decades in the well-resourced and world-leading British sailing team, the 35-year-old admitted it was a shock when he started working with the amateur Canadian squad.
‘It was a huge eye-opener, the sailing was below the standard I thought it would be at,’ he said.
‘When you’re blessed with an organisation running youth development and pathways like the RYA, to suddenly go into a set up like Canada was a shock. ‘They have six months of ice a year, so they can’t even sail at home, which is naturally a big disadvantage.’
Despite these obstacles, Asquith believes the Canadian team has the potential to aim for Olympic success over the next decade.
‘For us, we have a rising star programme, we’re working with people who have 2020 aspirations,’ he added.
‘It’s about long-term commitment. If they qualify for 2016, that’s great experience, but for those aiming for medals it’s an eight-year project.
‘When I joined in 2013 we were lucky to make silver fleet, and now we have two boats in gold fleet.
‘Time and results will tell whether we’re making progress.’
Asquith, whose 49er FX team of Danielle Boyd and Erin Rafuse finished a creditable 16th out of 39 boats at the Sailing World Cup last month, splits his time between Nova Scotia and Stubbington, where he owns dinghy specialist chandlery Xtremity.
Despite his success, he is aware of the fragile nature of high-level coaching, and through running Xtremity has ensured that sailing will remain at the forefront of his working life.
‘You only have to look at Paralympic sailing being scrapped to see that full-time coaching might not be around forever so you have to look at other things and have ideas about what to do next,’ said Asquith.
‘I enjoy working with Xtremity and being a part of the marine industry.
‘It’s good, clean fun and keeps me constantly involved in the local sailing scene.’