A legacy on and off the water

It’s been over two years since the Invictus Games Sydney 2018 was held and the impact of the Games continues to be felt in sailing communities around Australia.

“After the Invictus Games, sailing programs have been strengthened,” says Tom Spithill, who was the Sports Competition Manager for Sailing at the Invictus Games. “There was certainly a positive flow on effect from the Invictus Games, that’s for sure.”

An amazing week.

The Invictus Games was the first time that sailing had been included as part of the Invictus Games program and Tom looks back on the week fondly.

“It was probably the best week of my life,” says Tom. “Being involved in the Games was a huge honour. I got to work around a lot of other highly skilled people and learn how an event of that scale runs and what happens behind the scenes. It was the biggest multi-sport event since the Sydney Olympic Games.”

“I was glad sailing was the first event off the rank and went well and I just got to relax and hang around the park and watch every single other sport throughout the week.”

Photo Credit: Northern Beaches Council

Shining a spotlight

Tom’s made a huge contribution to the sport of sailing over many years and last month was recognised for Outstanding Community Service by the Northern Beaches Council at their Australia Day Awards Ceremony.

Tom received the award for his contribution as former Head Coach of the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club for over 10 years and as a long serving volunteer and mentor, where he’s given selflessly to support youths’, women’s and veterans’ sport. He’s previously been awarded both NSW and Australian Coach of the Year.

“I felt a bit not worthy of such an award. But the fact that a few of the veterans who I had taught had gone through the process of nominating me, that meant a great deal to me,” says Tom. “I’m very humbled and if this award spotlights veterans and first responder sailing then I’m happy that it shines a bit more of a light on it.”

Photo Credit: Northern Beaches Council

Supporting the veteran community

Well before the Sydney Games, Tom had been instrumental in establishing the highly successful veteran sailing program at the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club, where he’s positively impacted over 300 wounded, injured and ill veterans and their families.

“I’ve always admired veterans. My great grandfather was a Gallipoli veteran. I felt compelled in some way to give back and to do whatever little bit I can do,” says Tom. “I’ve made really close friends with the veterans I’ve worked with.”

“When you have a participant turn up, it’s amazing the change from the beginning of the day to the end of the day,” says Tom. “Everyone’s a bit distant, as far away from one another as possible, then they come on board and go sailing together as a team and then afterwards we all sit down together for lunch. That wouldn’t have been possible before. Miraculously, after a couple of hours on the water, everyone is sitting around having lunch talking to each other.”

Tom’s also a member of Veteran Sport Australia’s new Veteran Sailing Forum.

“I think the Veteran Sailing Forum is great,” says Tom. “It’s pooling more resources together. Everyone’s got a candid, open, sharing relationship. Everyone wants to see each others’ programs thrive.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images: Invictus Games Sydney 2018 at Sydney Harbour on October 21, 2018.

Next challenge

As his next challenge, Tom’s looking forward to spending more time out of the coaching boat and sailing.

“I’m trying to get in a bit more sailing myself, so saying ‘yes’ to a few more regattas,” says Tom. “I want to try and practice what I preach a bit more!”


Article by Veteran Sports Australia. Veteran Sport Australia congratulates Tom on his outstanding achievement and thanks him for his long-standing support for the veteran community.