A revolution begins. Unlike most of his contemporaries, Keith Musto was never happy to accept that being cold and wet were necessary inconveniences of sailing. “We sailed in Guernsey sweaters and old flannel trousers for years. You got wet and you accepted it. But, as we progressed up the ladder in terms of competition, we realised that this was a problem that needed to be solved. I went to one or two manufacturers who were making clothing at that time and spoke to them about improving the designs, and there wasn’t a lot of interest. We soon made our minds up that although we didn’t know how to make clothing, we’d learn quicker than the manufacturers at the time could catch on to the fact that there was a need and a demand for better clothing. So we started working on what sailors really needed to make conditions better for them.”
The origins of Musto go back to the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. Keith Musto and sailing partner Tony Morgan battled their way into the British Olympic sailing team against all the odds. They were physically smaller than their fellow competitors, yet Musto and Morgan worked tirelessly on their fitness and on engineering their boat to perform as well as any other. Their work paid off. These modest Essex boys joined many of the greatest names in world athletics at the XVIIIth Olympiad.
“The editor of Yachting World told a group of us after one competition that we could be Olympians if we set our minds to it. And that registered. When I started sailing in the Finn class I would travel back and forth the 150 miles from Benfleet to Lymington on a Lambretta, to where the boat was moored. I remember falling off on the Winchester by-pass once. The car in front stopped and my hands were so cold that I couldn’t apply the brakes and went into the back of him.”
“Our main problem was weight – or the lack of it. We felt the only way to address that was to be fitter than our competitors. So we asked the PE instructor at the local school how we could get fitter, and he said: ‘Well, what do you do?’ We told him, and he put us through a process of exercises – what we now know as circuit training – and finished up by saying: ‘Well, if you do that every day between now and the Olympics, then you’ll win a medal.’ So we did it every day, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, whenever…”
“Keith and I were regarded as a couple of people below the salt on the table. One day we were chastised by the most senior person in the class, saying: ‘But I hear you train…and we simply don’t do that.’
They were slick, very competitive and had adopted innovative sailing strategies that made up for their lack of height and bulk. Keith Musto and Tony Morgan led the field into the last of seven days of competition on the waters off the coast of Enoshima, where the Olympic regatta was hosted. There was, however, one final act of drama to come.
I think we were a fantastic team together and there was never any question about who was in charge. Keith was the boss. We welded together extremely well. Indivisible.
I think I had the temerity to say to Keith ‘We’ve done it!’ and he said ‘Look over your shoulder’ and we could see New Zealand coming up and they’d taken a wild flyer and we could see what was going to happen then. I don’t know how many nanoseconds in front of us, but enough to count.”
“Not winning was quite a disappointment and it still is. I wasn’t really suited to that type of dinghy which needed more weight, although it was a great education and I’m very grateful for the opportunity. But winning was what it was all about. And we didn’t win.” Keith Musto
When we came back I wanted to make sure it had no effect on me. I was painting a big white wall at home in the lounge. I got a hammer and a nail and hung the medal on it. I stood back, looked at it and thought: ‘That’s a good place for that medal’. I called my wife Jill and said: “How about putting that medal there?” She looked at me and laughed and said: “Don’t be silly, it looks ridiculous.”
But to me it wasn’t ridiculous. It represented just a moment in life. Keep it in perspective. That medal has never been on display. It isn’t now. There are other things to do…’