01 October 2020
| THE HEARTBEAT OF WOMEN'S SPORT

Shirley Robertson continues role as ambassador for Scottish Series

May 5, 2010

For the second year running double Olympic gold medal winner Shirley Robertson has been named ambassador for the Brewin Dolphin Scottish Series. Following on from the role she played last year, Shirley, who has herself competed at the event, will be hoping to encourage people to sign up for the Scottish Series.

Shirley-Robertson-3She joins organisers the Clyde Cruising Club to launch Scotland’s largest annual sailing event, taking place over the bank holiday weekend from Friday 28th May to Monday 31st May. The West Coast of Scotland will play host to 14 different classes over three racecourses, as well as pre-regatta Tarbert Inbound Races, which set off from Bangor, Northern Ireland and Inverkip.

For Shirley, who hails from Scotland but now lives on the Isle of Wight, the Series offers something of a homecoming. “There’s nowhere else in the world quite like it and nowhere I would rather sail,” she says.

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“The event is completely run by the village of Tarbert and everyone has their part to play. The shore is always lined with people, all decked out in their wellingtons, just having a good time. There’s no big occasion and I don’t need to take a party frock with me. To me it feels like going home.”

The event also offers the sailing champion the opportunity to share her sport with others and highlight its many benefits. “I’m obviously in the position where I can see all the advantages of my sport,” Shirley comments.

“It’s something that once you know how to do it, you can continue enjoying it for the rest of your life. There’s a real longevity to it that you don’t get in many other sports. The sense of freedom is amazing – whether you’re 7 or 67 the silence of the water and the calm it brings is exactly the same. It’s unique in that way. It’s a great past time.”

The joys of the sport

Sailing is a multi-faceted activity with various disciplines to try out. According to Shirley it can be the perfect activity for any woman who is looking to be both physically and mentally challenged.

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“There are many different areas women can get involved; whether they want to race for a day or travel the globe like Ellen MacArthur. It could be a leisurely cruise around Cornwall, or for the more athletic a dingy race at a local club.

“The great thing about sailing is that it is so mentally stimulating. There is always more to learn and new techniques to master. There’s always the feeling that you’ve never quite mastered it – even for me.”

It’s a decade since Shirley Robertson won her first gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, becoming the first British woman to win an Olympic sailing gold medal.

After achieving everything she had set out to do in the Europe Class, where she sailed alone, Shirley turned her attention to a team event – the Yngling Class.

“I never found training alone an issue and didn’t find it difficult at all to be motivated. It was more a case of knowing when to stop and not trying to push my body to do too much at once,” says Shirley.

“I was always very focused on the training I was doing and could afford to be very single minded. Working as part of a team was a different skill all together. My issue was always the quality not the quantity of training I was doing, whether by myself or as part of a team.”

The challenges of team work

At the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, Shirley joined forces with Sarah Ayton and Sarah Webb and once again took top honours, as the team became the ‘golden girls’ of sailing. By winning gold for a second time Shirley equaled the Spaniard Theresa Zabell as the female sailors who have won most Olympics gold’s.

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But it wasn’t all plain sailing – pardon the pun – for Shirley, who initially found it difficult to work as team.

“It’s a totally different dynamic having two more women in the boat with you,” she points out.

“A big part of sailing is the decision making process. It took a long time for me to trust the other members of my team and know we were all on the same wave length. I would have to say that in my opinion the Olympics (Athens 2004) were the only regatta where we sailed decently. We had to learn how to compensate for each other’s weaknesses to succeed.”

After taking time out to focus on a career in television presenting, Shirley returned to the sailing action in her quest for a third successive Olympic gold medal at Beijing 2008. With new team mates Annie Lush and Lucy Macgregor, Shirley narrowly missed out on gold at the 2007 World Championships. However in September of that year the Royal Yachting Association made the decision to select Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson as the British Olympic choice for the Ynging class in Beijing.

Shirley did make the journey east, but this time as part of a television rather than sailing crew.

“I didn’t actually miss it as much as I thought I would,” she admits.

“When I got there I found I was so involved in my own job that I didn’t have time to think about the alternative. I was kind of detached from the whole situation – there was no emotion there for me.

“I was there commentating and that year the production was my team. It is a similar set up to sport – everyone is striving to do the best job they can to produce the best programme. At the medal ceremony for the GB girls I was so focused on the fact that I was live on air and that I only had one shot at getting it right that I was completely in my world, not theirs. And I really enjoyed that.”

Looking ahead to 2012

Is there yet to be another twist in the tale of Shirley Robertson’s Olympic career? London 2012 is just two years away, and as part of the team that successfully brought the Games to Britain, Shirley is keeping her options open as to what her role at the Games will be. Is there a possibility she will compete?

“For me it’s never an emphatic no. Match racing is interesting because you don’t need to prepare your own equipment so in theory I could just turn up on the day and race. There is an element of coming in at the last minute that interests me.

“But in my mind I see myself there commentating – that’s my team now and that’s my challenge.”

In her role as an ambassador for 2012 there is still much for Shirley to do behind the scenes before the Olympic flame is lit in London.

“It’s a very interesting journey that we have been on from pre-bid until now. Pre-bid it was all about legacy – what we could leave behind, what we could add to the history of the Olympics and how London could join in with the spirit of the Games,” she says.

“Now we’re getting closer it’s more about the details, the smaller things that are actually very important. Things like what kind of pillars will be in the Olympic village, how we will transport athletes from one place to another, etc.

“My role as an ambassador will go all the way from pre-bid until the day the Games ends.”

Shirley remains very much involved in the sport, and even when not on the water takes an interest in the achievements of her compatriots – in particular the GB match racing team who have been performing well of late.

“I’m still involved in sailing and watching them (the girls) sail doesn’t necessarily make me want to get out there and join them, but I am very proud of what they have managed to achieve. I’ve known Lucy Macgregor and Annie Lush for a long time – in fact I was the one that spotted Lucy and offered her an apprenticeship if you will. They are great talents and in a very motherly way I’m proud of them.”

Not content with reporting on her sport, Shirley will be back on the water this year as the only female sailor on the extreme 40 circuit – an event she has come to look forward to.

“Racing a catamaran can be very scary and it’s so quick – I love it. I’m the only woman and I’m racing against men so it really gives me the chance to push myself.

“Until the circuit I had never really been frightened on a boat, but this is so quick I’m regularly scared. That’s not a bad thing. I like the fact that I’m not in my comfort zone.

“I’m back to the learning stage again which I’m really enjoying.”

The Brewin Dolphin Scottish Series takes place on Loch Fyne, Talbert, from Friday 28th to Monday 31st May 2010. For more information on the event and to read Shirley Robertson’s Series diary visit www.scottishseries.com

Rachel Stansfield, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Sailing: Macgregor secures silver at European Championships despite setbacks | Sportsister

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