Laser sailors called Tom who took their sailing baby steps in Gosford seem a potent mixture when it comes to present-day world sailing domination. Tom Slingsby grabbed gold in London two years ago. Now 24-year old Tom Burton is top of the ISAF rankings for the one person dinghy, and very much on the Australian selectors’ radar for the Rio Olympic Games in 2016.
A four-year Australian Sailing Team athlete, Burton added ISAF Sailing World Cup Final gold to his haul in Abu Dhabi earlier this month. His attention is now focused on the impending ISAF Sailing World Cup – Melbourne where the Sydney-sider is aiming for a gold tinted trifecta in the Laser class.
“I’m looking for a third win,” says the quiet achiever. “It’s going to be harder than the last two years, though the way I’m sailing it’s definitely do-able. Abu Dhabi had a lot of top guys in the world there. It couldn’t have been a better lead up for Sail Melbourne.”
He cites Nick Heiner from the Netherlands, Belgium’s Wannes Van Laer and the New Zealand trio of Tom Saunders, Andy Maloney and Sam Meech as the hottest international prospects from the Laser fleet of close to 40.
Tom Burton grew up in Baulkham Hills where local kids played soccer then progressed to the “rougher game of footy”. The family had a caravan at Wangi Wangi on the NSW Central Coast and from eight years of age Burton tentatively took out his wooden Sabot at Gosford and on Lake Macquarie.
He became more confident in strong winds when his dad Peter upgraded him to a fiberglass hull. “I felt more a part of the racing when I had the same Sabot as everyone else. The racing got closer and that interested me. It took off from there. Then the breeze didn’t matter so much; in fact now I enjoy big breezes. I enjoy the fitness and know how to get strong enough to handle the heavier conditions.”
From 2003 to 2007 Burton combined sailing with Rugby Union, playing at district, metropolitan and state level and captaining the Sydney Juniors at the U/16 Australian Championships. Not able to continue two sports at a high level he shelved his Rugby socks and boots in 2007.
As a teenager he moved to International OK Dinghies, where he competed against his dad. He started sailing a Laser Radial in 2007 and moved to the full Laser rig the following year then qualified for the AST at 20, which makes him a veteran of the team he says. Now Burton is under the wing of Sydney Olympic Games bronze medallist Michael Blackburn, just as Slingsby was, and right where he needs to be to represent his country in Rio – world number one on the latest International Sailing Federation rankings.
Slingsby moved on from the Laser to big boat, Moth and America’s Cup fame. The two Toms “chat randomly on Facebook,” mostly about how Burton should set up his new Moth. Slingsby hasn’t presumed to offer the younger Tom any specific advice, but according to Burton “everything Slingers says is pretty cluey”.
Peter initiated his son to sailing and Tom is well aware that without this introduction, the kid from the Hills district of Sydney probably wouldn’t be doing it now, let alone at an international level. This year alone prior to Abu Dhabi he took the highest honours at World Cups in Mallorca and Hyeres as well as the gold medal at the 2014 Rio Test Event and the silver medal at the 2014 ISAF Sailing World Championships in Santander, Spain in September.
Entries for the Olympic and Paralympic classes at the ISAF Sailing World Cup – Melbourne stand at 189.
Competition begins on Port Phillip off the host Sandringham Yacht Club on Monday December 8, 2014 for the 49er, FX, Nacra 17 RSXm and RSXw classes. The Laser tussle commences on the Tuesday December 9 as does the Finn, 470 and Paralympic classes of SKUD and International 2.4mR.
To view the competition schedule, download the sailing instructions at http://sailmelbourne.com.au/race-documents
The William Angliss Institute School Team Sailing event opens the Invited classes racing schedule on Sunday December 7.By Thursday all invited classes will be out on Port Phillip and very much a part of the vast fleet of 306 Sail Melbourne Invited Class entries.
After Melbourne the World Cup heads to Miami, USA; Hyeres, France; Weymouth & Portland, Great Britain; Qingdao, China, and finishes with the series grand final event in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
If you would like more detailed information on the event please visit the event website www.sailingworldcupmelbourne.com
An extensive Skype interview with Tom Burton: http://every4yearz.com/2014/12/03/a-moment-with-sailor-tom-burton/
Lisa Ratcliff ISAF Sailing World Cup – Event Media