Interview with Charlotte Dobson 

Charlotte Dobson more features

Charlotte Dobson shot to prominence as a Youth, winning multiple ISAF Youth and class Worlds medals. While studying at Edinburgh University, she competed at the 2007 Olympic Test event, finishing a creditable fifth. Having graduated last summer and now campaigning full-time Charlotte is focussed on consolidating a place in the World’s Laser Radial top 10 with one eye on 2012 selection.

"Being full-time has made a big difference to my campaign. Going to university at 18 was the right decision for me at the time but with the way everyone has kicked on during this second year of the Olympic cycle I think I’d have really struggled if I’d still been studying. There’s no room to give anything less than 120 per cent and although I found it quite easy to detach my student life from my sailing life, I really like that I’m now based in one place and able to focus solely on my sailing.

"In April I won my first ISAF World Sailing Cup ever medal on foreign waters - a silver at Hyeres – which was a really big moment for me. Towards the end of last year I had a bit of an epiphany where I knew if I was going start consistently being in and around the medals at regattas, and stop putting myself under so much pressure, I was going to have to make an enormous change to my racing style. Over the past couple of seasons I’ve been haunted by the number of yellow flags I’ve had for kinetics so I decided I needed to completely change the way I sailed downwind.

"All winter I worked on being a lot smoother and more accurate downwind. We were being coached by Chris Gowers, who is the rules guru and has so much top experience, and he was like a constant juror. I struggled in Miami and Palma and did get the heebee jeebees at times wondering if I’d done the right thing so it was really nice for it all to click a bit in Hyeres. It would be idealistic to think it was problem solved forever but now I have a solution up my sleeve and that’s put me in a much happier place looking ahead. With Tom Saunt coaching us again this summer, I’m in great hands.

"I’ve been so lucky to have been able to learn from some amazing sailors. Even at Youth level I was extremely fortunate to have worked with Chris Draper, who was a huge motivator, and then a bit later being coached by Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson really made me think ‘I want to do this!’ When you’re part of the amazing team I’m extremely lucky to be a part of there is always someone with a word of advice or help and when people with so much experience and expertise talk you listen.

"The whole thought of London 2012 is creeping up pretty quickly but all you can do is keep jumping the first hurdle in front of you. Winning the medal race at the Pre-Olympics in 2007 gave me a flavour of what my life could be like one day and it felt amazing to be part of that team. But I have to just focus on being the best sailor I can be and at the moment preparing properly for the Europeans and the Worlds is more important than even thinking about getting ready for London 2012.

"About 70 per cent of my training time is currently spent in Weymouth and it’s my favourite place to sail in the UK. I love the huge variety of conditions and every single day in the bay is different to the next. The fact we have the amazing support network and training venue there means it would still be fantastic even if the Olympics weren’t there. However it’s important to still train elsewhere and be exposed to different types of conditions to be ready for the European and World Championships.

"The 2010 Radial Worlds are in Largs, Scotland in August and although everyone keeps saying to me I must be looking forward to the Worlds on my home waters it kind of worries me a bit! I grew up on that coast but the last time I sailed at Largs I was about 15 and the wind was all over the place, it’s a really tricky venue to master. For Scotland to host such a big regatta is amazing and I’m really looking forward to the challenge of trying to do well at what could be a quite a tricky regatta.

"It will also be nice to be close to home at Largs. When I started out I loved the travelling but now being away from home so much is one of the toughest elements of the sport. I’m so lucky to be able to go to all these incredible venues doing the thing I love but the travelling can take it out of you.

"It’s sometimes easy to get stuck in a difficult and frustrating part of your programme but I just have to keep reminding myself this is the sport I love everything about. I try to step away and do other types of sailing, whether it’s on Farr 40s which I love, or doing a bit of kids’ coaching or club racing with friends, to see how much enjoyment other people get from the sport and their enthusiasm is a great motivator for reminding me how lucky I am to get to do this every day."

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