Britain's Olympic gold medallist Shirley Robertson will compete in this year's Rolex Fastnet Race onboard the Swedish maxi Nicorette

Skipper Ludde Ingvall has secured the services of Britain’s most famous sailing newly-wed, Olympic gold medallist Shirley Robertson. She will compete in this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race onboard his ULDB maxi Nicorette.

“The Fastnet will be a big learning experience for me,” said Robertson. “To have the opportunity to join one of the most renowned ocean racing teams is wonderful. What a way to do the world’s premier offshore race!”

Ingvall, racing for his third Fastnet win, is looking forward to having her onboard for the race. “Part of our mission is to develop talented sailors,” said Ingvall. “This race will show Shirley a whole new dimension to sailing. At the same time, I know there are things that we will learn from her – you don’t win Olympic gold without a remarkable ability.”

Robertson knows this is no cakewalk. “I’ll be taking orders – but I’ll do whatever it takes to be part of a winning crew. If I get to do some trimming and some steering, that will be a thrill.”

How well Shirley’s offshore sealegs have developed while sailing onboard the Cork 1720 Skandia at Skandia Life Cowes Week will soon be revealed. All the early indications suggest this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race will be distinctly lumpy and upwind all the way to the Rock.

Unpleasant as life may get onboard the 78ft Nicorette as she ploughs her way upwind, others will have it much worse. On the smaller boats, the trip out to Fastnet Rock will be extremely wet and unpleasant.

To make matters worse, they stand very little chance of winning on handicap as the bigger boats (Nicorette, Leopard, Stealth, V060s, Open 60s) invariably outstrip them in every department.

For a full and frank account of this year’s Fastnet, stay tuned for former Fleet Street hack turned Yachting Monthly news editor Dick Durham’s report of the Fastnet from onboard a race-tweaked Bashford Howison 41. Dick, a devotee of wooden cruising boats, is expecting to hate every second so don’t forget to check his report after the race.