TOM Squires admits his long-awaited return to competition this week will be a learning curve.

The Kingston Bagpuize windsurfer races at the RS:X European Championships in Vilamoura, Portugal, following an eight-month break caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

As with all sportspeople, Covid-19 tore up Squires’ 2020 calendar and forced him to wait an extra year to make his Olympic debut at next summer’s postponed Games.

The 27-year-old is ready to do battle after a long lay-off, but was grateful for a quick reality check.

“I haven’t raced in eight months and no idea what to expect,” he said.

“I’ve just done a week of racing with the Spanish and Israeli teams, who have yet to choose their Olympic representatives so their teams are super strong at the moment and pushing for every metre.

“It was a shock to the system and the body but hopefully put me into that gritty racing mindset.”

Squires’ last major regatta was the world championships in Sorrento, Australia, in February, where he finished ninth – his best performance at the competition.

When the pandemic hit he was locked down in Oxfordshire, before moving down to Weymouth when he was able to restart training in May.

Many of Squires’ rivals have been getting used to new equipment, with RS:X set to be replaced by foiling for the 2024 Olympic cycle.

But the windsurfer continues to use the older class and he revealed being able to dedicate extra time to training had allowed him to approach it from a new angle.

He said: “My sailing over the last few months has been more open-minded.

“Normally you get in the best shape you can before each competition, then there’s another competition, then another.

“To take a step back and come away from a summer with an actual outcome of weeks and weeks of specific training feels really good.”

Racing began in Vilamoura on Tuesday, with the medal positions decided this Saturday.