Sailing: Robertson reaps golden reward

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The Independent Online

It has been a fantastic week for Shirley Robertson, Britain's golden girl at the Sydney Olympics, who won the three-woman Yngling class at the French Olympic Week here yesterday with two races to spare.

It has been a fantastic week for Shirley Robertson, Britain's golden girl at the Sydney Olympics, who won the three-woman Yngling class at the French Olympic Week here yesterday with two races to spare.

Robertson and the crew of Sarah Webb and Sarah Ayton went out for the final two races but the win was already sealed. Christina Bassadone and Katherine Hopson took silver in the women's 470 while their male counterparts Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield as well as Paul Goodison, in the Laser took bronze.

"We are beginning to make real progress," the Olympic manager, Stephen Park, said. "Christina was fifth in the worlds last year, second in Sydney and then first in Melbourne this year. She is clearly a player in that class."

Little wonder then that Dean Barker, the man elevated to glory in the last race of the 2000 America's Cup by his skipper Russell Coutts and then crushed by Coutts sailing for Switzerland three years later, was in respectful mood at the French Olympic regatta.

Barker is hoping to represent New Zealand in the Finn class in Athens, something which Coutts did when winning gold in 1984. Barker was making no brave claims about the likelihood of beating Britain's current world champion, Ben Ainslie, absent from Hyères as he prepares to add the European title at La Rochelle, starting 10 May.

"Keeping fit while putting on 13kg at the age of 31 is not so easy as it used to be," said Barker. "I am on a pretty steep learning curve, and I don't like how much it hurts."

On the British team in general he says: "It is amazing how well organised they are. They leave no stone unturned."

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