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Sydney Uni Sport and Fitness (SUSF) member, Thomas Dillon, has competed in Australia’s most prestigious yacht race. Susannah Walmsley sat down with him to discuss training, injuries and “the race.”

What brought you to SUSF?

I started coming to the gym here in 2016. I was living in Sydney and had received a fitness passport through work. With the passport we had the option to try a number of gyms and SUSF was on the list. Prior to joining I had done a sailing event up at the Whitsundays and injured my back. I had been going to the Physio for a while and decided I needed to do something to strengthen my body, so I thought I would give it a try.

How do you approach training at SUSF?

I mostly do strength training at the gym. Before I came to SUSF, along with sailing, I had played a lot of different sports but had never really done weights. When I first joined I was pretty new to it all. Initially I had a program written for me and Lou Lou, one of the trainers here, really helped me out with that and I continue to work with her.

What keeps you coming back?

Injury prevention has been a big thing for me. The more I worked on my strength and core training, the less I was getting injured and as a result I haven’t had to go to the physio near as much as I used to, especially after regattas. What is the longest/toughest race you have competed in? Definitely the Sydney to Hobart. It’s just over 638 nautical miles and can come with some pretty tough racing conditions.

How was that experience sailing in such a high profile and challenging race?

I’ve traditionally grown up sailing much smaller boats so going into the big boat world was a huge change. I have done the Sydney to Hobart race twice with two very different results. The first year I did the race, in 2016, we finished which was a great achievement. However, last year we had to retire with steering damage half way across the Bass Strait. That was pretty disappointing.

Was there any specific training required before competing in the race?

A lot of the preparation is time on the boat with the crew. With 12 of us on the boat it requires a lot of team work and we need to be in sync. Although you can improve your individual skills, like most sports, it all comes down to how you work together. What kind of challenges have you had to face in Sailing? This year preparing for the Sydney to Hobart was a big learning curve. The crew only came together in July, so getting everyone up to speed and working together was challenging but rewarding. There are also a lot of factors you can’t really control when sailing, such as the weather and equipment failure which can be frustrating, but it’s all part of the sport.

What kind of challenges have you had to face in Sailing?

This year preparing for the Sydney to Hobart was a big learning curve. The crew only came together in July, so getting everyone up to speed and working together was challenging but rewarding. There are also a lot of factors you can’t really control when sailing, such as the weather and equipment failure which can be frustrating, but it’s all part of the sport.

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