Charlotte misses Olympic place

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charlotte_dobson-1A PSYCHOLOGY student from Rhu failed in her bid for the sole Laser Radial place in the British sailing team for the 2012 London Olympics — her second Olympic disappointment.

Charlotte Dobson enjoyed an impressive week in the first major London 2012 dress rehearsal at the Weymouth and Portsmouth National Sailing Academy — the Olympic venue — in June 2011, gaining seven top-five finishes but having to settle for fourth overall.

At the 2012 Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta, also at Weymouth, she once again had to play second fiddle to her British rival, Alison Young, who gained the Team GB place.

Charlotte, who was born in Rhu on June 5 1986 and is a student at Edinburgh University, also just missed out on a place in the team for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

She started sailing in a little Optimist dinghy on Loch Lomond at an early age — her ex-navyman dad being a keen sailor — and it was soon obvious that she had real talent.

Says double Olympic gold medallist Shirley Robertson: “Charlotte has the ability to take the sailing world by storm. She ploughs her own furrow, works at it herself, and has the attitude and maturity to weather the knocks and carry on.”

By the age of 14, she was selected for the Scottish squad after doing well in the Scottish traveller series and UK nationals when they were in Largs.

After gaining a lot of experience in Optimists, she burst on to the international sailing scene in a Laser Radial in 2001 when she won a Youth World Championship bronze medal. The following year she gained silver in the same event, a feat she repeated in 2004.

In 2005 she was sixth in the SPA Olympic Class Regatta, second in the HRH Princess Sofia Trophy in Majorca, and ranked seventh in the ISAF world rankings.

In 2006 she won the Sail for Gold Regatta at Weymouth, and in 2007 she was eighth in the HRH Princess Sofia Trophy, fourth in the SPA Olympic Class Regatta and tenth in the World Championships in Portugal.

She was one of four girls shortlisted by Royal Yachting Association Olympic Selection Committee for Beijing in 2008. The competition was fierce, and she just missed out as the place went to Penny Clark from Hampshire, who went on to finish seventh.

Charlotte said: “The problems started at the Worlds in New Zealand in March 2008. I had real issues with my downwind sailing which before I’d always been really good at. It just kind of went downhill from there.”

Undeterred she was soon back in good form, and in June 2010 she won a silver medal at the European Laser Radial Championships in Estonia, after gaining silver at the ISAF Sailing World Cup event in France a few weeks earlier.

She is supported by the Scottish Institute of Sport and was a winner of the 2010 Scottish Sports Personality of the Year Award from Scottish Sports Aid.

Louise Ramsay, head of marketing for one of her sponsors, Tiso, who accompanied Charlotte to the awards dinner, said "This was a fantastic achievement for Charlotte and was a great accolade to her huge potential and talent. We are really proud to be part of Charlotte’s future and look forward to supporting her over the coming years."

Charlotte, who keeps fit with cycling and weight training, took the 2009-10 academic year out from university and spent it in Weymouth to practice on the Olympic course.

“Weymouth is a good place to learn that conditions can easily change from one day to the next," she said. "We now have a fantastic facility there, there is great support from the Royal Yachting Association, and it is just nice to be with a big group of people who all have the same focus."

Born Charlotte Isobel Dobson, she says that her mum — a former Olympic riding squad member — is the biggest influence in her sailing career. A keen tennis player in her childhood who made the Scottish junior squad, she named Martina Navratilova and Pete Sampras as two of her heroes.

She said: “For me, tennis has many similarities to racing a Laser; you have the obvious fact that they are both sports for individuals but there are other similarities. They share the same sort of mental approach and like sailing; every match and every surface is different.

“To succeed in tennis or sailing, you need to be able to master multiple tactical situations and to come out on top, whatever the conditions throw at you.”

Looking to the future, she says: “I have sailing dreams that I aspire to reach but there are others as well, like having a career afterwards, and I guess, for a while, you have to put those other dreams on hold.

“Also, I have to spend a lot of time away from friends and family and that for me is a massive sacrifice but that’s about it. I am doing what I love, working towards something I really want and I am having a wicked time doing it.

“I still go out with friends and have a good time but I just come home a little bit earlier, and my really close friends are the people I have grown up with and they know what I am doing and they know I have always been like that anyway.”

charlotte_dobson-2Shirley Robertson said: "When I see Charlotte, I see a lot of myself when I was her age. She has got the same determination — the way she ploughs her own furrow and has got where she has got because of her own will.

"She has great tenacity and is very analytical about everything. If she does something wrong, she wants to know why. She has got the sailing ability and also the determination — she is going to go really far. But she has moments of inconsistency."

Despite the disappointment of missing out on London 2012, Charlotte said: "What has happened, has happened. Now I will be wishing Alison all the best at the Olympics, and I hope she does well."

She now plans to go into the FX class for a year, and after that will decide if she wants to return to Lasers in the hope of a place at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016.

Charlotte's young sister Anna is following in her wake, having qualified for the World Youths in her own right.