Scots sailor Charlotte Dobson is eyeing a big future in the sport after putting her disappointment at narrowly missing out on 2012 Olympic selection with a change of boat.
She had been in the Laser Radial class but going out in an Olympic 49er high-speed, twin-trapeze skiff with her boyfriend Dylan Fletcher, also an Olympic campaigner, persuaded her to make the switch.
The 49er FX is the women’s high performance skiff class that has been chosen for Rio 2016 and Dobson said: “I was in tears when we left the beach. I was terrified.
“But, suddenly, the fear turned to enjoyment and I have loved it ever since. It is so different from the Laser which, after eight years and two Olympic programmes, really just felt like the day job. Now, in the 49er FX, every time you go sailing the learning curve is still so steep but it is so, so enjoyable. It is like being 15 again!” added Dobson, who grew up sailing on the Gareloch in the same programme as 2012 silver medallist Luke Patience.
Dobson was one of the first British girls to move into the 49er FX. Initially the British Sailing Team management wanted helms to sail with different crews through each regatta cycle. Now the Scots helm is settled with Sophie Ainsworth at the front of the boat and their partnership gets stronger with every race. They start the 49er FX World Championships in Marseille on Tuesday with high hopes of a top-ten finish overall. Dobson has already finished second at the ISAF Sailing World Cup event in Hyeres, France, eighth at the European Championships and won the Sail for Gold regatta on her adopted home waters off Weymouth and Portland in June.
Dobson added: “We have had a couple of weeks of good training out of Marseille and it is a difficult venue. At this time of year there is either a relatively weak and unpredictable sea breeze which we are quite good in, or the strong Mistral which is equally unpredictable in wind direction.
“I feel like our boatspeed is generally very good but most of the other girls are still relatively new to the boat and so we are all learning at different speeds. There has been a huge element of going back to basics, learning how to tack and gybe a skiff, when in the Laser you were knocking yourself out trying to make tiny little gains.”
Now Dobson and her crew are looking forward to spending some of the winter months training at the Olympic venue on Guanabara Bay, Rio before the first of a full diet of Olympic class regatta next year in Miami in January.
She missed out on selection for the 2008 Games in Beijing, despite having been selected for the Pre-Olympics and then, for 2012, lost out to compatriot Ali Young who finished fourth. Since then she completed her Psychology degree in Edinburgh and had more or less turned her back on Olympic sailing.
“Now it is amazing. The boys have imposed a curfew where I have to stop talking about sailing, and 49er FX sailing at 9pm each night.”