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Sitting down with the elite coaches

Published on December 20th, 2021

Shirley Robertson

In this edition of Shirley Robertson’s Sailing Podcast, the double Olympic gold medalist Robertson sits down with four of sailing’s most accomplished coaches as she looks at what goes on behind the scenes in the search for high end sailing success.

From the Olympic podium, to the America’s Cup, there is a rich diversity of disciplines within professional sailing, and this month Robertson discusses what it takes to coach some of the world’s best sailors in some of the sport’s most competitive arenas.

One of the most sought after coaches from the world of the America’s Cup is French pro sailor Philippe Presti. As Jimmy Spithill’s coach of choice, Presti helped Oracle Team USA through the 2013 Cup comeback in San Francisco, and more recently coached the double helm setup at Luna Rossa in Auckland 2021.

“Something super important in coaching is creating an atmosphere of safety, you have to feel safe to makes mistakes, to accept mistakes and learn from them. If you don’t make mistakes then you’re not learning.”

From the world of grand prix yacht racing, Robertson talks to one of the most ubiquitous coaches on the global sailing scene as she discusses coaching a boat full of A-list sailing talent with Andrew “Dog” Palfrey.

Known throughout the sailing world for his attention to detail, Palfrey employs all manner of technical assets to seek out the winning edge. From drone use to precision load sensors and exhaustive data analysis software, Palfrey offers some fascinating insights into instructing the world’s best on how to squeeze out that regatta winning boat speed.

Double Olympic silver medalist Joe Glanfield has been sitting in the coach boat for Hannah Mills since her first Olympic campaign for London 2012. Recently crowned World Sailor of the Year, it was in Tokyo when Mills became the most successful female Olympic sailor ever, her two gold and one silver medals all achieved with Glanfield at her side.

Glanfield’s discussion with Robertson offers a revealing glimpse of what it takes to coach at the highest level, where marginal gains are key, where even in a team of two, the complexities of sailing can be mitigated through effective and efficient training.

In her final interview, Robertson talks to Dutch psychologist Anje-Marijcke Van Boxtel, a business leadership specialist from the corporate world whose work with Volvo Ocean Race skipper Bouwe Bekking has seen her apply learnings from the interpersonal structures of the business world to the challenging team dynamics of a Volvo Ocean Race yacht.

“As an individual leader, the skipper, you are not enough anymore to gather all the data and analyze them and make the right goals, we need all the perspective from this diverse crew…so it’s helpful to work in a team with a lot of diversity, to bring all those perspectives to the table and make them learn to collaborate.”

This edition of the podcast is in two parts:

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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