Shirley Robertson talks to madforsailing

The golden girl talks about her plans for 2001, and reflects on the possibility of another Olympic campaign

Tuesday March 13th 2001, Author: Jo Grindley, Location: United Kingdom
So how has life changed since winning gold? I seem to have become very popular! I've been asked to do everything from being painted gold for the Daily Mail, presenting an award at the World Sports Award, attending Muhammad Ali's birthday party, talks, launching boats, opening shows, hotels and a lot of charity and school work. It's been nice having the opportunity to meet so many different people and realise so many people were routing for you to do well in Sydney. At Sailboat last weekend the children were mad keen which was great to see, lots of questions, endless posters to sign!

What's been the most memorable moment since returning from Sydney?
Carrying the Scottish flag around Murrayfield before the start of the Scotland v Australia game.

What plans have you got for this year?
Everything that's happened since Sydney has been nice, but it has to be reduced and I need to have a more normal life! My fiancé Jamie has just moved from Ireland to the Isle of Wight so I plan not to be away as much. On a work front I was asked last year to become an ambassador for the Volvo RYA Youth Sailing Scheme, so I'll be attending a lot of youth events this year in my new Volvo V70! Iain Percy and myself are also working with Skandia Life Cowes Week to promote the event and sailing in general, and we'll be competing at the event.

As for sailing, I'll be steering a big boat for the first time, the Swan 48 Jacobite in the Swan Europeans, Round the Island Race and America's Cup Jubilee. Then it's a Mumm 30 at the Scottish Series in May, hopefully with some of my match race crew. We'd like to do some match race events this year also, but it's finding the time when everyone's available is proving difficult at the moment.

I'm still looking though for an interesting one-design big boat project to come along, that's something I'd really like to do. One thing I've found with the big boat world since the Games is the men seem to have a lot of opportunities handed to them on a plate, whereas I seem to have to almost create my own projects if I want to be up there competing at top international level.

You've spent nearly 10 years Olympic sailing, are you missing the circuit?
I miss the intensity that makes you get out of bed at 6am and go to the gym every day, it's nice to have that one focus, but it's also nice to have a normal life for a change, but I don't want to be normal forever!

On that note, do you have any plans for a fourth Olympic campaign?
I've been doing some research on the Yngling, but everything is so up in the air with the class at present. There's no weight limit in place right now so the optimum all-up crew weight is about 240 kilos, that's two pretty big crew to find, so until they set a weight limit it's hard to make a plan. Also boat builders like Borresen are about to start building Ynglings, which I think will be a lot faster than the American-designed boats being churned out at the moment. I don't want spend £25K buying a boat that's going to be slow in a year's time and still have the loan to pay off and no prospect of selling it.

If they set a weight limit this year then I may start revving it up over the winter, I don't see there's a desperate rush, though.

What do you think of ISAF's decision to make the Yngling the women's keelboat for 2004?
Well, I've only ever seen one in a car park and not sailed the boat so it's hard to comment, but I think it was a knee-jerk reaction. There was a great opportunity for something new to be designed, a modern boat that suited women sailors and designed with their average weights in mind, rather than compromise on an old design in an established fleet. No one looked at what was best in the long term - it was a short-term compromise.

But didn't the women want a boat where they could sail against men on an equal footing so they could improve and have a level to aspire to?
That's irrelevant. Within six months the women will be on an equal par with the men, if not better. Maybe the countries where there was already an established fleet of Ynglings, such as Denmark and America, lobbied for this?

With the weight limit issue, it will either destroy the established class if they bring in a lower weight limit or we'll see what happened in the Europe class in the last 10 years. Loads of boys were sailing the Europe when it became an Olympic class - many more than girls at that time, but as the girls improved with better funding and more time spent on the water they soon became better than the boys. The standard decreased within the boy's fleet as well as numbers. Now 60 boys will turn up at the Worlds and there'll be 120 girls trying to qualify for a place, and that's limited.

Thanks, Shirley, and good luck for 2001

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