Joe Glanfield says his dwindling chances of claiming an elusive Olympic gold medal at Rio in 2016 were behind his decision to retire from racing.
The 34-year-old from Exmouth announced last week that he would no longer race with partner Luke Patience in the 470 class, having returned to the sport in 2013 after a three-and-a-half year break.
The return ‘hugely exceeded’ Glanfield’s expectations, with the duo bagging European Championship silver last year, coming fifth at the World Championships and taking podium finishes at three other World Cup and international regattas.
But Glanfield – already a double Olympic silver medallist – revealed that a lack of funding was doing damage to his and Patience’s Olympic hopes.
“I have two silver medals so I suppose the motivation of doing another campaign was about doing it better than before,” said the father of five. “I guess I had lost a bit of confidence that it was going to happen.
“We were hoping for a lot of corporate sponsorship, but we didn’t find as much as we hoped to, so it was tight financially.
“That meant we were tight – not only in terms of equipment, but I would have to work in addition to the sailing to support my family.
“That would have put us under huge time pressure – the kind of pressure I didn’t feel prepared to deal with.
“I would be prepared to do it if I felt there was a gold medal waiting at the end of it, but I wasn’t convinced there was one. Straight away we were quite good at conditions predominantly found in England, so we knew most of the training we’d need was abroad in the lighter, more fickle sea breeze and, looking at that over two years, we knew it would be difficult financially to do a good job.
“Those things made me think that, at my stage of life – with children and everything – it was not what I wanted.”
It represents the end of an illustrious racing career for Glanfield, who started sailing at the age of four with his father.
After joining Exe Sailing Club, Glanfield went on to win the ISAF Youth Sailing World Championship before partnering up with Nick Rogers. The pair gelled immediately and went on to enjoy great success together, including fourth place at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
They were just pipped to gold on the final day’s racing by the United States in Athens in 2004, but recovered well from a poor start four years later to claim another Olympic silver in Beijing in a dramatic medal race.
“I think the Olympics were always the highlight – all three of them,” said Glanfield, who also won silver at the 2005 World Championships and gold at the 2004 European Championships with Rogers.
“The sheer challenge and enjoyment of rising to that big occasion every four years was amazing.
“This year was fantastic though. After having four years off, to get back in a boat and get a silver at the European Championships and win a couple of regattas – that was rewarding after such a long break. If I look back, I remember trying to get to my first Olympics and you don’t really know what is required, you just do what you think you have to do,” he continued.
“You are so enthusiastic about the dream of competing at the Olympics and winning a medal, you will do anything to see that dream come true.
“Once you have been there, come close to winning a gold and won just one Olympic medal, the dream is gone because you know what is required from then on.”
His retirement from racing does not mean an end to Glanfield’s involvement in sailing, however. He intends to use his considerable experience to coach other sailors who are looking to emulate his success.
“I think coaching is the plan. I have coached for a long time now – I used to do a bit when I was younger,” he explained.
“I went to the London Olympics as a coach and I really felt that I was learning a lot very quickly and I could do the job to the maximum of my capacity and make a difference to the sailors I was coaching.
“I knew that making the decision to retire from racing was ending any more Olympic shots but, in the same breath, it felt like the right one to make. Once I had made it, it felt like a good thing and a weight off my shoulders.”