Luke Patience

European, World and London 2012 Olympic Medal winning Sailor

Luke Patience loves the sea. In fact he loves it so much he has stated that he wished he’d been born with gills!

Having been brought up around boats and coming from a long family line of fishermen and sailors, it is hardly surprising that Luke was born to sail. And had he not been a world class sailor, Luke has said on several occasions that he would have wanted to join Greenpeace to ‘try to prevent the Japanese slaughtering literally tens of thousands of whales every single year.’ His love of the sea has obviously influenced his keen ecological conscience and he lists irreversible global warming as his greatest fear.

Born in Aberdeen on the 4th August 1986, but growing up in Rhu, Luke was encouraged to take up the sport of sailing by his father, an architect, John.

Luke has said that he has pictures of himself in a boat at three years old. All of his grandfathers and great grandfathers on both parent’s sides were all life boatmen or, going way back, Zulu fishermen. The Zulu was a massive heavy wooden vessel that became popular on the Scottish East Coast. The sails were very heavy and difficult to haul, and the masts had to be very long and strong. Masts could be 60 feet (18 m) tall on boats of 80 feet (24 m) in length. Their design produced very fast boats that became invaluable to herring fishing fleets. They got to the fishing grounds quickly and returned swiftly with the catch. Luke’s forefathers would sail and get their catch around the Moray Firth.

Luke first set foot in a boat on his own at the age of 7 in Rhu Marina. Soon after came the hunger for competition and by the age of 9 he was travelling around Scotland in an Optimist competing in the Seasons Traveller Series.

Luke very quickly set his sights further afield and it was not long before his Father was driving up and down the length of Britain every weekend to enable Luke to compete against all the Optimist sailors in the country.

From an early age, Luke had decided that he was going to pursue his sailing dreams. Whilst he has admitted that he was ‘bright enough at school’, he attended Hermitage Academy, he just didn’t have much interest in academic studies – sport was his passion. Aside from sailing, Luke participates in racket sports, windsurfing, surfing, climbing, Downhill Mountain biking and snowboarding. He lists Roger Federer as his sporting hero and admits that he hates football with a passion!

Luke has admitted that he was dreamer and his inspiration, drive and determination to succeed came from the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Watching the Sydney Games on TV Luke set a goal that one day he would be on the podium with an Olympic Gold Medal around his neck.

Giving his reasons for being inspired by the 2000 Olympics, Luke said: "Shirley Robertson won there; a Scot winning a gold medal brought it closer to home. It's your sport. It's British. More. It's Scottish. She encouraged me and Charlotte Dobson when we were younger.”

"It made it more achievable, less of an unreachable horizon. As a child, as a kid, you have no limits. It's what you dream about. You sit there and day-dream. I would sit in my classroom day-dreaming, because I wasn't stimulated by school. And I would dream and dream and dream. There's no limits as a child, is there? Your risk reward does not exist. It's just about reward. The risk doesn't matter.

That's a unique thing you have as a youth as we all, once upon a time, did. It's a special time in your life when you don't have to think about the consequences or risk, just what could be possible. So I would sit there and dream, and go: 'Could I? I know I want to, but can I? The answer? Well, I didn't really have to ask the question, almost the answer was: 'Yes. I'm going to”.

With that determination, Luke set his heart on an Olympic 470 Campaign.

Luke went into the British Squad systems and by the age of 18 he had competed at an international level in both Optimist, 29er and 420's setting himself up for an Olympic Campaign in 2005 where he could officially start his Olympic Quest as a full time athlete for Team GB.

Wednesday 6 July 2005 was also to prove somewhat prophetic for Luke. He was sitting in his kitchen with a fellow young sailor when the London 2012 bid was announced as successful. That sailor was coincidentally his future 470 team mate Stuart Bithell. The duo grew up as fierce rivals but good friends racing against one another in 420s on the national and international circuit. But fate bought them together when the London announcement came.

Stuart had borrowed Luke’s van to travel to the Junior World Championships in Estonia, but ended up having an accident at the Ferry Port. On informing Luke, Stuart was simply asked to bring it back to Helensburgh and the friends ended up spending six days together.

With his first four years of Olympic Campaigning being a big learning curve with pretty regular chopping and changing of sailing partners. With his former crew Chris Gribb, he won the 470 Junior Europeans and bronze at the Junior Worlds. He parted ways with his crew Chris Gribb in April 2009 and sailed a few regattas in the early summer with Cal McDonald, but Luke felt that his partner’s heart “wasn’t quite in it” and this temporary partnership also ended. Luke was then at a lose end, when he was contacted by Stuart Bithell, two weeks before the 2009 World Championships who suggested they team together. Five days into their new partnership, they took the silver medal.

Luke and Stuart quickly got into the rhythm of winning medals and won 5 Medals at European and World Cup Regattas. It was the pair winning silver in December’s 2011 World Championships, held in Perth, that brought Luke’s dream to reality.

Fighting off the challenge of the double Olympic silver medallist Nick Rogers, sailing with Chris Grube, and the double world champions Nic Asher and Elliot Willis, Luke and Stuart were to be given the news they craved by Olympic Sailing manager Stephen ‘Sparky’ Park

On the 9th January 2012, it was announced that Luke was to be the first Scot selected by TeamGB for the London 2012 Games. At the time Luke stated: “Being the first Scot to be selected for Team GB is a very privileged position. There are not many of us and we are in the minority so I hope we will see a few more. We are a small country and there are not many sportsmen there so I’m dead privileged to be part of that and I hope I will do my country proud.” Luke and Stuart then moved to Portland, near Weymouth to prepare for the games.

On the 2nd August 2012, Luke and Stuart set out in their TeamGB 470 dinghy for the first of their 10 races. By the 9th race they had guaranteed themselves a silver medal with an unassailable lead over the bronze medal contenders and lay four points behind the world champions and Australian crew of Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page heading into the delayed medal race on 10th August. Before the race the Australians were the cast iron favourites having have won every regatta of the pre-Olympic season and have beaten the Luke and Stuart in seven out of the eight races in the Olympic regatta. Despite an early lead Luke and Stuart finished fourth enabling the second placed Australians to win Gold. In their first ever Olympics, Luke and Stuart claimed the silver.

Away from racing, and when his schedule allows, Luke likes to spend as much time in Scotland as possible particularly at Tiree, his favourite place, playing his guitar and indulging in the odd dram!

Silver Olympic Medal aside, Luke’s most noticeable achievements as a sailor to date have been:

As a junior:
2000 – 4th European Optimists, 1st Eric Twiname Optimists, 1st Irish Nationals Optimists.
2001 – Optimists Worlds team (Qingdao) – 1st Brit
2003 – 2nd 420 Europeans, 9th 420 Worlds, 1 420 Nationals

As a full time sailor:
2009 World Championships: Silver
2011 World Championships: Silver
2011 European Championships: Bronze
2012 London 2012 Olympics: Silver

Image Copyright: Matthew Dickens/ Skandia Team GBR Team