Getting the band back together
They will line up with 61 other crews, including Skandia Team GBR’s world silver medallists John Pink and Rick Peacock, when racing starts at the six day European Championship, held at the Adriatic venue of Zadar.
Brotherton and Asquith were a potent force in the 49er fleet when they campaigned for selection to the Athens Games, winning World Championship bronze in 2002 and silver at the Athens Test Event in 2003 before missing out on the GBR Olympic berth to eventual Athens bronze medallists Chris Draper and Simon Hiscocks.
While Asquith continued to race in the 49er with Paul Campbell-James, Brotherton - who represented Great Britain in the 470 class at the 1992 Olympics - turned his focus to a coaching career, in which he was hailed as the ‘fourth member’ of the Beijing gold medal winning Yngling trio of Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson.
For the 43-year-old Brotherton, coaching in Beijing was an experience which rejuvenated his own desire to get back on the campaign trail.
“I’d been itching to get back sailing again since the Olympics to be honest, although I also spent quite a long time trying to talk myself out of it!” he admitted.
The opportunity arose after the 49er Worlds, at which a ninth place for Asquith and Campbell-James and finishing as the fourth British boat signalled the end of their partnership.
“The 49er class is such a tough class. There are that many people banging on the door, especially within Skandia Team GBR and unfortunately Paul [Campbell-James] and I didn’t manage to convert what we’ve done into the result we needed at the Worlds,” Asquith explained.
The pair both believe the combined racing and coaching experiences they’ve gained since parting ways will make them a stronger prospect as they strive for Olympic selection for 2012.
“Mark and I were a very good team,” Brotherton continued. “I don’t think we were outside of the top four of any regattas for about 18 months when we were campaigning together, although at the time we got what we deserved.
“We were second at the Pre-Olympics in 2003, fourth at the Worlds the same year but actually we just weren’t good enough to challenge Chris [Draper] and Simon [Hiscocks].
“Now, my situation is different and having been so involved with the Yngling girls’ campaign I feel I have a clearer understanding of what’s required for a successful Olympic campaign - I think I learned as much from them as they learned from me! “
Asquith, 29, admitted: “I was pretty young and naive when we sailed together back then - now I’ve got a greater knowledge of what works for me and what doesn’t work for me and can add my own lessons and experiences into Paul’s and hopefully the combination will work well.”
Skandia Team GBR enjoys a competitive 49er squad, which features numerous World Championship medal winners, including Beijing representatives Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes, John Pink and Rick Peacock, and Athens bronze medallist Chris Draper, who’s also made his return to 49er sailing this year with Peter Greenhalgh.
“It’s going to be a huge ask,” acknowledged Brotherton, who describes the British talent in the class as ‘humbling’.
“I’m 43 years old and I’ve been away from the class for six years now so we just don’t know where we’re at until we start racing again.
“We have no performance target for the Europeans – it’s just a measurement regatta for us so we can profile the training we’ve done so far. Anything in terms of results we’ll just use to analyse our own performance and go from there.
“But we’re coming to this campaign with our eyes wide open, and I’m just really relishing sailing the boat again.”
Racing at the 49er European Championship in Zadar gets underway on Monday 31 August, with the final medal race scheduled for Saturday 5 September.
Skandia Team GBR sailors at the 49er Europeans:
John Pink-Rick Peacock
Dave Evans-Simon Hiscocks
Paul Brotherton-Mark Asquith
Dylan Fletcher-Alain Sign
Chris Rashley-Matt Gotrel