Determined Matt makes Ben’s team

By Chris Cornford Apr 19, 2021

This is an incredible story which started with a daily eight-mile round-trip bike ride to school.
It moved on to the Rio Olympics and a place on the Gold Medal podium. And continues, even now, on a worldwide adventure as part of Sir Ben Ainslie’s Team Ineos UK.
For his parents, Martin and Kath Gotrel of Colwell, there is a deep sense of pride talking about their son Matt’s amazing journey so far. Martin, who owns the jewellers in Yarmouth High Street, was also a renowned time-trial cyclist.

Martin said: “Matt was brought up riding a bicycle; we would ride a tandem with him on the little bicycle at the back of me.
“As soon as he went to school, he was riding there and back every day. As he grew up, if he wanted to go anywhere, he had to get on his bike and make his own way there.”
As Martin’s cycling career wound down, he turned to his other love, sailing, and Matt was quickly following in his footsteps.
Matt said: “Dad was always a keen sailor and my first real memories were between the ages of five and eight when I would go to the Draycote Water Sailing Club with dad and my grandfather. My grandfather even set up a trapeze line for me on his boat!

“I started off on the small RS 200s, then the RS 800 which got me onto the national circuit. It was a pathway into the 29ers and the British Youth Sailing Team. By the time I was 18, I had moved up to the 49er, the Olympic two-handed high-performance skiff and spent two years full-time sailing in Weymouth.
“I was part of the training squad along side the guys who made the Beijing 2008 team, and I thought about competing in the London Games four years later, but the competition was so tough.
“Basically, there were 10 teams competing for one place, so I decided to go to Loughborough and study engineering.”
The university brought a change of direction for Matt. He was quickly seconded onto the rowing team, saying: “I wanted to keep fit and enjoyed the training and discipline and travelled to Nottingham Rowing Club every day to train.”
In 2012, after three years at Loughborough, a university not particularly known for its rowing team at the time, Matt was part of the team that topped the medal table at the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Regatta, before going on to win the illustrious Henley Royal Regatta.
These successes led to a call up from the GB Rowing Team where he made his debut at the European Championships in Italy later that year.
From team spare in his first year, he went on to win two successive World Championship gold medals as part of the Mens’ Eight, in 2014 and 2015 and then an Olympic gold in Rio 2016.
But, as far as Matt was concerned, he had had enough and decided to call time on that part of his career. He said: “I was very lucky to be able to join the Great Britain Rowing Team and achieve an Olympic medal in such a short space of time.
“It was a tough decision not to carry on, but the programme is just relentless. You have one day off every two to three weeks, doing three training sessions a day, you buy into it and that’s how it is.
“At the end of the day, you are doing it for a gold medal and once you have achieved that, it’s difficult to get the motivation to do it all over again.”
He got a job as an engineer at Rolls Royce but, once again, his career moved in another direction. He explained: “I got a call from a couple of guys from my time with the 49ers. They were getting involved in Sail GP and were looking for someone to grind with them.
“I always wanted to get back in sailing, and a couple of our lads were also part of Ben’s team and saw that I had the potential. So I met up with Ben just before Christmas 2019 and have been with him since.”

Matt spent five months in New Zealand as part of Team Ineos’ bid to win the America’s Cup, which sadly failed. He returned home to the Cotswolds having got back in time for wife, Katie, to give birth to daughter, Lara.
He added: “I had six weeks at home and now I’m off again to Bermuda with Ben and the rest of the team for a series of seven Sail GP events.”
The next America’s Cup is in 2024 and an announcement on the venue will be made in June with the Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes, in the running to host the event, having challenged the holders, New Zealand.
However, Matt is not looking that far ahead, saying: “I’ve still yet to decide on what I am going to do.”

Whatever happens, dad Martin has played a major part in his success and Matt added: “I was always disciplined and having competed with dad on the small boats I looked up to him. He gave me the kind of mindset I needed to succeed in the rowing world where there is a very regimented lifestyle.”
Martin, who is regularly seen rowing locally, can understand why Sir Ben was keen to have Matt on board. He said: “In rowing you are part of a team and Matt is a real teal player. He leads from the front and brings the best out of people.”

Matt has clearly taken the lead from his father, just as his dad led him on that tandem all those years ago.