If there was a prize for living up to your name, Luke Patience should surely win it. He didn't just have to win selection for that precious single 470 berth at the 2016 Olympic Games once, but twice when his crew, Elliot Willis, had to withdraw due to illness. It's a story that would have tested the resolve of the most determined athlete, but one which will surely mean his hunger for Olympic Sailing gold is stronger than ever.
The passionate and proud Scotsman might be small in stature, as befits a 470 helmsmen, but he more than makes up for it in personality. Despite his rocky road to Rio, it would be hard to bet against this dynamic powerhouse winning a medal, even though he will have his work cut out, especially with gold as the ultimate aim.
Where it all started
Luke started his sailing career in Optimists. His father booked him on a week-long Optimist course at the nearby Rhu Marina (just outside Glasgow) and young Luke was hooked from the start. From a young age he enjoyed the competition side of the sport and its tactical side.
Luke worked his way up through the ranks of the Optimist class, winning the Irish nationals and the Eric Twiname trophy as well as doing well in the class Euros and Dutch nationals, where he finished second. He dipped his toe in the world of 29er sailing after Oppies, but found the higher speed dinghies less strategic and switched to the 420.
In the 420 he took the class by storm, after just a year in the class he won the 2003 nationals at Helensburgh in emphatic style, with crew Adam Wagner. When he won that event, at the age of 17, his eyes were already on the Olympics.
He moved into the 470 and was pushed every step of the way before winning selection for the 2012 Games. Sailing with Stuart Bithell, the duo had a great debut at the 2012 Olympic Games netting a silver medal in impressive style (see Olympic Sailing concludes with a rush for silver). After the Games, however, they chose to go their separate ways, Stuart moved to the 49er while Luke teamed up with Elliot Willis, eyes firmly on going one better and snapping up that elusive gold medal in Rio in 2016.
The Rio 2016 campaign
Luke Patience and Elliot Willis looked on form to build on the 2012 silver medal. Ranked number two in the world, they were one of the first teams announced for the 2016 Olympic Games in September 2013. They had posted a number of consistently promising results, including second at the 2014 Rio Olympic test event, and winning the Miami Olympic Classes Regatta in January 2015, followed by a second at Princess Sofia and a third at Hyeres.
However, they had a difficult worlds in October 2015 and then came the shock announcement: 32-year-old Elliot Willis was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Suddenly he had a bigger battle on his hands. While he underwent treatment for the life-threatening condition, Luke Patience was left without a crew. Subsequently the pair were de-selected (see 2016 Olympic Sailing Team takes shape) and Luke had to seek selection yet again.
Determined not to waste the work that himself and Elliot had put in over the preceding three years, Luke teamed up with Chris Grube and the pair threw themselves into winning selection. They managed an impressive fifth at the worlds in February 2016 and their place on the team was finally announced in May 2016.
On his selection, Luke commented: “It’s still a special day, but mixed feelings I suppose because I am combining two campaigns to try and still achieve the same goal. It was wonderful to do this today with Chris and it was wonderful to do that day with Elliot as well. Mixed emotions, but overall I’m happy and I can’t wait to hopefully do Queen and country proud. I hope I can draw on the London experience, and with Chris being a first time Olympian, between us it will keep things grounded. Four years ago I was probably the most excited man with Stuart in front of the camera, but business will be business, the excitement will be the excitement, they will be two separate things. We will do the damage we can do on the water and hopefully with a smile on our face.”
Chris Grube added “My selection has obviously come out of Elliot’s misfortune but we are going to do our best and hopefully get a medal and do Elliot and ourselves proud. It’s been a very long road, now it’s finally here it is quite surreal. Even though it is something you have been aiming for 10 or more years it’s a fantastic opportunity to represent my country at the Olympics, I am very proud to be standing here and able to say that.
“It’s a short campaign for us but we are looking to bring back a medal at the end of the day and we need to make sure the processes are in place to achieve that. There are a lot of technical things happening in the background, we need to make sure the boat is moving quickly through the water but also we need to make sure our racing is going well, working well as a team and our communication in the boat is understandable to each other.” Read all our medal predictions for the British sailing team for 2016 here.
Luke Patience at a glance
Born: 04/08/86, Aberdeen
Started sailing: aged 7 in an Optimist in Rhu Marina, Scotland
Career highlights: Olympic silver medal 2012 (470), 470 worlds silver 2011, 470 worlds silver 2009
Read our Olympic Sailing guide, and our guide to the Rio 2016 Olympics.