Our World

Keith Musto talks about his “Amazing Day”

This month Keith Musto appears in Yachting World in their “One Amazing Day” feature. He outlines his time with the Japanese Olympic Team in 1973.

“One day that stands out for me came when I was assigned as coach for the Japanese Olympic team in 1973. This was Japan’s first real attempt at sailing because prior to the 1964 Olympics at lnoshima, Tokyo, there was really no such thing as sailing in Japan.

It was my first morning – late-February in 1973, during cherry blossom time. It was blooming cold and all 15 teams were lined up with their 470s ready and waiting for me. Thankfully everything seemed to be in order. Then it occurred to me that l had one big problem – communication. Fortunately, I was offered a translator, Takao Otani; a super guy, incredibly helpful who became a very good friend. The video camera I had requested also arrived that morning. but like all cameras of the era, it was enormous. I could barely shoulder the battery pack. So far, so good, I thought. But as the minutes ticked by I began to realise the extent of the challenge that lay ahead. Taking one step at a time, l wrote out my training plan for the day, handed it to Takao, and arranged to meet the team on the playing field at 0600 for a warm-up session. The bitter cold didn’t deter them in the slightest; they were quite happy running around for an hour in shorts and singlets. I remember it was blowing fairly hard, probably Force 5-6, which in their book was far too windy to go sailing. There was also a lovely, accompanying long swell coming in off the ocean into the bay, which was perfect. Anyway, we had a chat about the basics of sailing and boat handling and what the helmsman and crew responsibilities were and they all seemed relatively happy.

By 1100, with all the appropriate preliminaries covered, l finally said: “Right, now we all go sailing.” “No, no, far too windy!” came the collective reply. Okay, I thought, here’s an interesting dilemma. Now what? I tried to persuade them by saying what great fun it is to go out in those conditions. but they were adamant, there was no way they were going out. With few options left. I said: “Well, I’m going out and I’ll take you,” pointing to one team member. “We’ll just go out in the bay and the rest of you will be able to see it is possible to sail in this wind strength.”I tried to emphasise the word fun, but I could see they were far from convinced.

I told them I’d like them to watch and when they felt comfortable at what they saw, they should join us. So, we went out and sailed around, and slowly. one by one, they came out and we finished up with about half a dozen boats. I shouted to them via Taco the translator, who was on a flat-bottomed, totally impractical punt; we should all line up and sail out on starboard tack. l told them not to tack until I said so. I just wanted to keep them going for as long as I could on one tack because I wanted them to get used to the motion. And I also knew as soon as they tacked they’d head straight back in. We must have sailed out for two and a half miles and when I gave the command to tack what I thought would happen did -they all sailed in. But that was OK, at least I managed to get them out there.

They were so excited when they got back to shore and were chatting endlessly about the experience. They listened well and from that day on came on in leaps and bounds.”

Keith Musto talked to Sue Pelling

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