Sailing started off as a hobby for Tom Ramshaw when he was eight years old; today, it’s both his career and his passion.
After spending time in the Stony Lake Yacht Club’s junior sailor program, Tom began competing in regattas at age 12. In 2007, he won the Ontario High School Championship and the Ontario Gold Cup circuit; the following year, he began spending his summers in Kingston, which afforded more wind and waves.
Tom sailing in his youth.
Tom graduated from Greenwood in 2009 and headed to Queen’s to study engineering. After a year and a half in the program, he realized the subject wasn’t for him. “I planned to switch to geography, but because I was changing mid-year, I had to hit pause for a semester,” Tom says. At this time he was also sailing with Team Ontario, which afforded him funding to travel and sail. “I decided to go all-in on sailing,” he says. After several months of training, Tom made Canada’s national team and decided to leave his education on hold to pursue sailing full time.
Tom had a breakthrough season in 2015, earning top-10 results at the World Cup level and challenging for podium positions. On the heels of these successes, he also qualified to represent Canada at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio in the Finn class. “I wasn’t the favourite to take the spot, but I was training constantly and improving the fastest of all the athletes trying for the spot,” he says. “That was when sailing truly became my long-term career.”
Tom has since competed for Team Canada at both the Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Competing at that level requires intense training. “I’m on the water at least 20 days per month,” he says. “Every day, I’m thinking about what I can do to be a better sailor.” It also requires the ability to meet and overcome challenges. “I remember a particular regatta where I thought I could medal and I finished seventh,” he says. “I was really hard on myself. But, I got to the end of the race and took a couple of days off, and then I re-found my love for sailing again. You can’t let results grind you down.”
Tom sailing during the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic games.
Thinking back to his time at Greenwood, Tom fondly remembers playing on school teams. “It was a really positive environment,” he says. “From the bus rides, to practices, to taking on other teams, I was with my good friends and we were all in it together.” It was this missing team element that led him to pivot and join Canada’s Sail GP team. Sail GP is an international sailing competition where professional teams compete in grand prix races around the world. “We’re all in the same boat in all senses,” Tom says. “It really reminds me of what I had at Greenwood.”
Tom competes with the Sail GP team.
Tom credits Greenwood with helping to shape him as a person. “I loved the emphasis on building character, and on becoming who you are and letting that show through,” he says. “I built really strong relationships with my teachers, and it gave me the ability to talk to adults and to be very personable. I don’t know that I would have gotten that anywhere else, and it played a big role in allowing me to follow my chosen path.”