Pippa Wilson: 'As soon as we saw the fish, we knew that gold was in the bag'

Pippa Wilson recalls her golden days as one of the 'three blondes in a boat' who grabbed GB's first sailing gold of 2008

A little fish jumped out of the water in front of us. We all saw it. I can't quite describe why but that was the moment we knew we were going to win the gold medal.

It happened in the closing stages of the medal race. Sarah Webb, Sarah Ayton and I were all focusing on the tactics. This was the ninth and final race and the Dutch boat of Mandy Mulder, Annemieke Bes and Merel Witteveen were just one point behind us. We had one goal: to stay ahead of them. I was keeping constantly in touch with their exact position. The weather was closing in, the wind was up, yet it was foggy and we could barely see the finishing line. We knew we were ahead and that gave us a lot more tactical freedom. But in sailing it can go wrong very quickly, so we weren't taking anything for granted. And then there was this little fish. It was so random. It was so surreal. It was one moment of clarity and that was it. We were around the second mark and away. Britain's first sailing gold of 2008.

It never really sunk in. We just wanted to be the best in the world, be the best we could be, and we did it. The other two had already won gold before. But I didn't know what to expect. I couldn't really take it in. The Olympics had been my dream, my one goal. I had partnered one girl for a couple of years but it never truly worked out. We got to around five in the world, but we were never going to get gold. Then the two Sarahs called. Shirley Robertson had been the third part of the trio in the previous Olympics, but she moved on and they called me. We gelled right from the beginning.

We were in China for three months beforehand so we didn't really see too much of the build-up. We were in our own little bubble. I had no idea what the reception was going to be like. It was only when we got to the closing ceremony that we started to get a feel of what we had achieved. That was amazing. And then the whole team were flown back in a gold-nosed aeroplane. We got home and it seemed like the whole airport was saluting us. The Prime Minister (Gordon Brown) met us off the plane. It was all overwhelming. When I got home, I saw so many people that I hadn't seen for months. I had been focused on the Games for so long, and now I was back with them. It was just amazing and even now I find it difficult to comprehend it all.

But there was one downside. We knew we would never get the chance to defend our title. The decision to omit Yngling from 2012 had been made a year out from Beijing. And we all knew there would be nothing suitable for us to continue in the same team in 2012. But the talent for the British team to sweep the board is still there.

It is difficult to truly understand why Britain has developed such a great reputation in sailing. It helps that we are such a supportive unit. The only disappointment is that we can't take more than one boat in each class. Sometimes we have three or even five boats in the top 10 in the world. The depth of talent helps push us on even more. In the past decade, we've created an era of sailing that has stayed with the sport. You can have the talent, but in sailing experience is paramount. And success fuels success. We all learn together and develop together. It's no surprise that large number of this year's team are in their 30s. But there is a new generation behind them ready to step up, learning all the time.

I have no idea what makes Britain so special. Perhaps it's just because it's wet and windy!

This series was run in conjunction with Richard House Children's Hospice which caters for children with life-threatening conditions. Each year it needs to raise £2.7m to keep going. The Olympians in this series all agreed to share their memories to raise awareness of the hospice. To find out more visit www.facebook.com/richardhousech

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur
film

It scooped up an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards when it was first remade in 1959

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
news

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's starring part
News
London's New Year's Eve fireworks event is going to be ticketed this year for the first time at £10 a head
news

Revellers will have to pay to see New Year's Eve fireworks in London

News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Travel
travel

...and the perfect time to visit them

Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Life and Style
tech

Try putting that one on your Christmas list
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week