Cowes resident Shirley Robertson is competing here at Skandia Cowes Week after winning her Olympic gold medal in the yngling class in 2004.
Cowes resident Shirley Robertson is competing here at Skandia Cowes Week after winning her Olympic gold medal in the yngling class in 2004. This time she has ditched her dinghy and is sailing a big boat,Patches- a TP52. The boat is owned by Irishman Eamon Conneely, and named after the town in Ireland where he was born. The crew is equally divided between professional sailors and amateurs. Together they have taken part in much of the Irish series including Sovereigns Week and the Week of Kinsale. After this week they will go straight on to compete in the Fastnet and then down to the Med to join the other TP52s.
Going from sailing a dinghy to a Farr 52 seems like a completely different sport and although Shirley feels that she is still making the transition from dinghy to big boat sailing she says that the discipline and attention to detail are the same.
“I had sailed a lot more cruiser type big boats, like Swans but it’s only this year that I’ve actually been racing some proper race boats. I’ve been really enjoying it and in many ways it is similar to what I’ve been doing, you’re really conscious of setting the boat up properly and working as a team and also you feel a lot more through the wheel.”
Shirley feels there’s more to Skandia Cowes Week than just sailing.
“It’s a long week and I think you have to pace yourself a bit in terms of sailing and the social side!” advises Shirley. “The thing that sets Skandia Cowes Week apart from other regattas is that there are so many different types of boats and so many people. I can’t think of anywhere else you get that. I also think that the social element is fantastic, there is such a variety of entertainment during the week. I usually go to at least one ball and one huge party, but some nights you just have to chill with friends, have a few drinks and stay away from the crowds.”
Although Shirley clearly still spends a lot of her time sailing, without the intensity of the Olympic training schedule, at least for this year, she has more time to turn her hand to other interests.
“I do lots of different things now, I work at BBC South a couple of times a week, I am a sports reporter sometimes for sailing but sometimes it’s football or cricket. I also do lots of corporate speaking and motivational training.”
So, what tips can an Olympic champion and event veteran give us on sailing at Skandia Cowes Week?
“It’s a long week and I think you have to pace yourself a bit. In terms of sailing, I think if you stay out of trouble you normally do quite well.”