Interview with Micky Beckett

You are currently ranked as the number-one ILCA 7 sailor in the world. There are undoubtedly a number of factors that lead you there, but what would you say played the biggest role in pushing you to earn that spot?

I think a lot of ILCA sailing for me has just been about persisting even when I didn’t know the answer, whilst it’s cliché, not giving up can go a long way. If at any point I’d seriously considered giving up I wouldn’t be here right now.

There was a noticeable shift in your sailing results coming out of 2020, when you became seemingly unstoppable on the podium. What changed for you in that time?

During COVID there was a long time where we didn’t have any regattas and didn’t even know when they would resume, so there was plenty of time for sailing at home without many distractions. I think during this time I found a few parts of my sailing that I thought I was good at – but that wasn’t really the case! Those areas that may have been overlooked, I spent some time thinking about, and with the help of great coaches I found a few areas I hadn’t exploited so well before.

You are part of a very powerful team, as British sailors consistently appear at the top of the fleet. Can you share a bit about the GBR team and how you maintain (what appears to be) a positive culture as you all work toward the same goal?

I always think in sailing there aren’t really any measurables, so training with very good people is the only way to figure out how to improve. Also off the water I think we’re quite good at providing entertainment and keeping things light hearted. It can be very easy to take yourself too seriously doing any sport professionally, so having your mates around to make fun of those moments that would otherwise be frustrating is probably a good thing. I think we have a good level of respect for one-another which goes a long way too. Finishing on the podium with Elliot and Lorenzo at the Euros in 2020 will always be one of my favorite memories.

Tell us a little about your big win in Palma at the Princess Sofia Trophy. And what’s next for you before/until the Worlds in August?

Palma obviously went really for me, it was quite satisfying as it was probably one of the lighter wind regattas we’ve done in the last few years, something I would typically have struggled with. Half way through the event I was sitting about 6th, feeling that I had not sailed very well so far. I knew that the final series would be really tricky given the forecast so I just tried to start as well as I could and not panic when it wasn’t working so well. It’s the first time I’ve won the same regatta on the bounce so I’m happy with how I dealt with that pressure.

I’m flying to Hyeres in a few days, which is always a really good regatta and now part of the World Cup series. After that we’re going to spend some time in Marseille over the summer, then we will do some training camps specifically for the Worlds.

The 2023 ILCA 7 World Championship in The Hague will be the ultimate event of the year and an opportunity to qualify Great Britain for the 2024 Paris Olympics. How will you prepare, mentally and physically, for such a high-pressure and large event?

The standout feature of the Hague is obviously the large amounts of tide that will be there. It’s been some time since we went to a venue with such big currents so I think a lot of my preparation will focus on that aspect. Beyond that I don’t think I will do anything that differently, I’ll keep focusing on the small improvements I can make in my sailing.

The ILCA 7 fleet is an incredibly strong fleet. How do you work at reducing your mistakes or minimizing their impact to stay at the top?

I agree, that actually the key to doing well is often not about being really fast, just as my good friend Nick Thompson likes to say “don’t have the slow bits”. This however is a lot easier said than done. After doing any sailing, thinking about the mistakes I made in either training or racing is very important, it’s easy just to forget about it and move on, but stopping to think through why I made a certain decision is very important. If I can understand the context around a mistake I made I’ve got the best chance of knowing how to fix it.

What about the ILCA 7 keeps you sailing and competing in it as opposed to other boats out there?

There are so many things I love about this class that just doesn’t exist in any other – Olympic or not. The ILCA is so widely represented, it’s raced all over the World, it’s not just an elite class only raced in a few places. This makes the racing so tough, so you know when you’ve achieved any success that you really earned it. I’m not the biggest fan of endless hours of boat-work, the simplicity of the boats means that I can spend day after day on the water with a only a small amount of my time spent rigging in the boat park. The boat can be brutally physical too, I have tried a few different sports and sailed other boats but nothing gets close to quite how physically demanding a few windy races can be.

Ultimately once anyone has sailed in a gold fleet at a World Championships, they immediately know it’s the most competitive fleet you will ever find. You can be so good in this fleet and still come last, so it’s impossible not to have enormous respect for the boat and everyone who sails it.

Have you attained a degree already or do you plan to pursue a degree in the future? 

After leaving school I went to study at the University of Southampton where I did a degree in Ship Science and Naval Architecture. I really enjoyed studying, however since I finished the degree in 2016 I have forgotten nearly all the maths I spent so long learning! Since then I have sailed full time. If I wanted to get a ‘proper job’ after sailing I would probably go back to University to remember how to use my brain for anything more complicated than hiking or wind shifts.

What do you enjoy doing when you need a break from sailing?

I try and read books to keep me from spending too much time on my phone. I would also like to be good at surfing and other watersports, most of which I’m pretty bad at, so when I can I’ll go out on the water kitesurfing or doing something outdoors in whatever the British weather has to offer.

What is your favorite place that you have traveled to because of sailing?

This is always a tricky question. I grew up in a tiny coastal village in the west of the UK, quite far from anywhere, the first time I ever got on a plane was to a sailing event when I was 17, so wherever I go a small part of me thinks it’s fairly remarkable that I’m there at all. I’m sure I won’t be alone in this opinion but Lake Garda is a stunning place. Every time I go there I just stare at the mountains that tower so high over the water, the sailing is awesome too. There aren’t many places where you can sail downwind all morning, pull in for lunch somewhere on the lake, then sail downwind all the way home again.

What would you like readers to know about Micky Beckett as a person?

I’m from Wales.