Sitting down with the GB medal factory

Published on October 5th, 2021

Shirley Robertson

In this edition of Shirley Robertson’s Sailing Podcast, the double Olympic gold medalist host talks to multiple Olympic sailing stars as she delves deep into the world of British Sailing, and asks just why the team has become such a dominant force in Olympic Sailing.

Robertson, a former Team GB member herself, talks to three of Team GB’s Tokyo 2020 gold medalists, discussing their own personal routes to victory, but also delving into life as a member of the most successful Olympic sailing team of all time.

She also talks to the Team’s Head of Performance, Mark Robinson, she discusses the rigours of back to back Olympic campaigning with Team GB’s Luke Patience, and she gets the outside viewpoint from US Sailing Team leader Paul Cayard.

Kicking off the podcast though, Robertson talks to the woman who’s gold medal in the 470 Class in Tokyo makes her the most successful female Olympic sailor of all time – British 470 helm Hannah Mills.

“At the Games there’s so much distraction, there’s a bit of a circus because it is the Olympic Games….it’s like a marathon of horrible stressful days but what I think I’m good at is just accepting that it’s fine.

Mills and Mcintyre

“The nerves are fine, it means you care, it’s a good thing….it’s just part of you for that experience, and being able to accept all those things that you can’t control….whilst all that’s going on the background, that’s the difference between success and failure at the Games.”

Mills and crew Eilidh Mcintyre were one of three gold medal winning teams for the British Sailing Team in Tokyo. In part two of the podcast, Robertson talks to the men’s 49er Class crew Stu Bithell and Finn gold medalist Giles Scott.

Both Bithell and Scott thrilled British sailing fans in the manner of their medal wins, both managing to grasp gold medals that seemed to be slipping away in two of the closest medal races in recent memory.

Bithell and helm Dylan Fletcher just squeezed enough speed out of their 49er to put points between themselves and New Zealand gold medal favorites Burling and Tuke, while Giles Scott maneuvered himself back into gold medal position on the very final leg of his medal race after a nerve wracking twenty minutes of sailing that saw the reigning Finn gold medalist re-start his race…:

“The only way that I could really mess things up and slip off the podium was if I got disqualified and Josh (Junior) won the race. So that is your doomsday scenario that you have to talk about….

‘So the conclusion to that was if there is at all a chance of you being over the line, you’re going back and of course in that race there was an individual recall flag…..as soon as the flag went up I was going back, there wasn’t anything going through my head….and from there it was a full scramble to try and get back into the race.”

In addition to the gold medalists, Robertson’s look at Olympic campaigning with 470 fifth place finisher Luke Patience is a fascinating and moving listen. A three time Olympian, Patience started his career with a silver in London, but after two consecutive fifth place finishes in Rio and Tokyo, is both honest and sincere in his description of the pain that constant Olympic pressure can bring. It’s a moving account from one of British Sailing’s most eloquent of athletes.

Part 1:


Part 2:

Shirley Robertson OBE made history by becoming the first British woman to win Olympic Gold Medals at two consecutive Olympic Games. Shirley Robertson’s Sailing Podcast, produced and edited by Tim Butt of Vertigo Films, is available to listen on her website or via most popular podcast outlets, including iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcast, and aCast.

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