Sublime Robertson leads golden girls to Britain's first triumph

When she stepped ashore yesterday, Shirley Robertson could still not quite believe it. The 36-year-old from Dundee had just become the most successful woman sailor in Olympic history by winning gold in the Yngling class along with her crew of Sarah Webb and Sarah Ayton.

When she stepped ashore yesterday, Shirley Robertson could still not quite believe it. The 36-year-old from Dundee had just become the most successful woman sailor in Olympic history by winning gold in the Yngling class along with her crew of Sarah Webb and Sarah Ayton.

Eighth position in their penultimate race - with, crucially, their closest rivals failing by one place to finish the required four boats ahead of them - meant the Britons had won by a single point, with a whole day to spare, and would not even have to compete in tomorrow's final race.

"We weren't certain at the end whether we'd won the gold or not," Robertson said. "We asked Ian Walker, our coach, and he confirmed it. But I'm dying to see it on paper. I still want to see the evidence that we've won."

Although they had still not got their hands on that final, definitive proof, the three women celebrated in traditional style. Linking arms on the deck of their boat, they jumped joyously overboard into the warm waters of the Aegean, which has become such familiar territory to them in the last three years.

Britain's meticulous sailing preparations for these Olympics, which began immediately after their triumphant three golds and two silvers in Sydney, have meant that their crews have been the best prepared of any competing here this month in the Saronic Gulf.

Robertson's gold, moreover, is only the beginning of the British medal flow. Ben Ainslie strengthened his own claim on a second successive gold medal in a different class with another masterly performance on the Finn single-hander course yesterday - he needs to finish only 15th out of 25 to secure victory in tomorrow's final race.

The 470 dinghy pair of Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield, like Ainslie, are certain of at least a silver medal. They must, however, put at least three boats between themselves and the American pair, Paul Foerster and Kevin Burnham, to take gold in tomorrow's final race.

Meanwhile Paul Goodison lies fifth in the Lasers, Chris Draper and Simon Hiscocks are fifth in the 49ers, and Iain Percy - another gold medallist from Sydney - and Steve Mitchell begin their Star campaign tomorrow, as do two more medal hopes, Leigh McMillan and Mark Bulkeley, in the Tornado catamaran.

Yesterday, however, all eyes were on the British women. While Robertson had already experienced Olympic glory, 24-year-old Ayton, from Weymouth in Dorset, and 27-year-old Webb, from Weybridge in Surrey, were savouring success on their first appearance on this stage.

"We've worked so hard in the three years we've been together and this feels very sweet," Robertson said.

"We're a four-person team, with our coach, Ian Walker, because we would not have achieved this without him. It's not been easy.

"We've been up and down. We've really had to pull through. And to win with a day to spare is unbelievable."

Ayton paid tribute to "the whole sailing community" for their support, and in particular the 36 individuals who put up £1,000 each to buy their boat and enable them to compete.

"I'm so pleased to be able to show our medals to the people who helped us," she said.

A Spanish yachtswoman, Theresa Zabell, won two golds in the 470 class in Barcelona and Atlanta, but Robertson, who triumphed in the single-handed Europe class in Sydney four years ago, is the first woman sailor ever to win golds in two different boats.

Stephen Park, Britain's Olympic sailing manager, put Robertson's achievement in perspective.

"For any sailor to win medals in two different classes is an incredible performance," he said. "To win two gold medals in two different classes is almost unheard of. To be a female and to win two gold medals is an astonishing achievement."

Ninth in Barcelona 12 years ago and fourth in Atlanta, Robertson has been a model of dedication and commitment to her sport.

Her crew have spent countless hours on the water here in training for this week and Robertson has been utterly meticulous in her preparation of the boat.

The Britons triumphed thanks to their extraordinary consistency. Each crew can discard their worst result, but until yesterday Robertson and the two Sarahs had never finished outside the top six in the fleet of 16 boats.

Third place in the first race yesterday strengthened their position and meant they would secure the gold if they finished no more than three places behind their closest rivals, Dorte Jensen's Danish crew.

Robertson led the 10th and penultimate race of the series at the first mark, but had slipped to second by the end of the second leg and then saw the Danes overhaul them. Jensen, however, was unable to put more than three places between the two boats and the Britons took the gold, despite their worst finishing position in the regatta.

Yesterday's triumph meant that Robertson's husband, Jamie, missed her moment of glory. He was due to fly here tomorrow to see her final race. Would they sail anyway tomorrow? "No," said Robertson. "We're going to get our hair done."

Inevitably, Robertson was asked whether she would be back to compete in four years' time, chasing more Olympic history.

"My poor husband would like his wife back to cook him dinner," she said.

In an echo of a comment by the greatest Olympian of them all, Steve Redgrave, she added: "Anything's possible, but at the moment the last thing any of us want to do is get back in that boat. We'll see."

Voices
Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014
voices

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Voices
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Russell Brand at an anti-austerity march in June
peopleActor and comedian says 'there's no point doing it if you're not'
Arts and Entertainment
Sister Cristina Scuccia sings 'Like a Virgin' in Venice
music

Like Madonna, Sister Cristina Scuccia's video is also set in Venice

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say

News
news

Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
News
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
health

Some experiencing postnatal depression don't realise there is a problem. What can be done?

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
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

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album