It’s been hard work but worth it” said Ayton, also known as Nipper. “The conditions haven’t been the strongest for us and we’ve really had to raise our game.”The Yngling, a name invented when its creator Jan Linge wanted to develop a larger boat, is said to be the equivalent of moving from a go-kart to racing Formula One. Winning a day early certainly takes the pressure off a little bit,” Robertson said.The graduate of Herriott Watt University, who was made an MBE after Sydney and declared the ISAF World Sailor of the Year, said in the high spirits after yesterday’s win that she fancies her chances of a third gold in Beijing.In contrast to Robertson, who took 12 years of Olympic competition to achieve gold, her two crew members have had their first taste of Olympic competition at Athens. Ayton, a 24-year-old from Weymouth in Dorset who is entrusted with race tactics, was Robertson’s training partner in Sydney.Webb, 27, from Weybridge, Surrey, who just missed out in the last Olympic trials sailing in the 470 class, joined the others two years ago after an original crew member, Inga Leask, had to drop out “It’s unbelievable The legs are like jelly and all over the place.
With similar optimism surrounding the rowers, renditions of “Britannia Rules the Waves” resounding around the athletes’ village looks increasingly likely.A rich source of medals at Sydney, preparation of the sailing team this time has been second to none, extending to a meteorologist advising the team, who have already turned to the challenges of Beijing in 2008.By adding to the gold she won in the Europe class in Sydney, Shirley Robertson, 36, from Dundee, has become the most successful British woman sailor, vindicating her decision to return for her fourth Games.”It’s been hard all week and we have taken each race as it goes along and not made errors. They celebrated their win by linking arms and diving from their boat into the Saronic Gulf, presenting an image that would have sent ripples of relief through the Team GB camp.Their victory came shortly before hopes of a gold in the mixed badminton were dashed when Nathan Robertson and Gail Emms were narrowly beaten by the Chinese pair.At the weekend British hopes will be high of adding two further sailing golds, courtesy of Ben Ainslie in the Finn class and the 470 dinghy pair of Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield. After five days and a series of false hopes that had started quiet murmurings of discontent about the returns from Lottery-funded Olympians, Britain finally claimed its first gold medal in Athens yesterday.
The sailing partnership of Shirley Robertson, Sarah Webb and Sarah Ayton held their nerve in difficult conditions to gain an unassailable lead in the Yngling class – a category new to the Olympics.After finishing third and eighth in their two races yesterday the trio – considered as favourites before the Games – can no longer be caught by the second-placed Danes and are not even required to race today before they climb on the winners podium tomorrow. “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.”.
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. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.