AFTER narrowly missing out on Olympic selection in both 2008 and 2012, Charlotte Dobson was certain she was finished with sailing.

To fail to reach not one, but two Olympic Games was a bitter blow and Dobson began to think there was more to life.

And so, when she went on her first date with fellow GB sailing team-mate, Dylan Fletcher, her decision had been made. That date changed everything though.

Dobson had spent her career in the individual laser radial class but Fletcher gave her a taste of the 49er FX class, which is a two-person boat, and gave Dobson a whole new perspective.

“I was 100 per cent going to retire after London 2012. I felt like I’d had two stabs at getting to the Olympics and hadn’t achieved it so I really felt like I was done,” the 35-year-old says.

“Going out in Dylan’s boat was so much fun though and I remember saying to him, ‘I can’t believe you get to do this every day, this is brilliant’. 

“So I went for it and moving into a new boat really reinvigorated my love of the sport. And going into a new class was very much starting at the bottom of the learning curve and it was really exciting for me to be able to make so much progress so quickly. It really reignited my passion for sailing.”

It ended up being quite a day; not only was Dobson’s sailing career resurrected but she and Fletcher are now engaged, with the wedding postponed from last year to this summer so they can both concentrate their efforts on winning Olympic silverware in the coming weeks.

Dobson finally fulfilled her Olympic goal in 2016, finishing sixth in the 49er FX event in Rio, and five years on, the Scot has a new partner in her boat, Saskia Tidey. 

Having been one of the few athletes selected for Team GB before the pandemic hit, Dobson admits the postponement of the Games was “absolutely gutting”.

The pair had been in excellent form heading into last summer and, having only narrowly lost out on gold at the recent World Championships, had little doubt they possessed the form to become Olympic champions.

The 12-month delay did, admits Dobson, cause a few worries that they may not be in the same sparkling form, but those anxieties soon turned into the realisation that an extra year gave them even more time to prepare.

And so, the pair head into the Tokyo Olympics with no doubt of their target. Gold is, Dobson knows, within her reach and while that is a hugely exciting prospect, there are also a few nerves.

“I feel like this time, compared to previous Olympic campaigns, there’s so many more pieces of the puzzle in place. For this Games, I feel like everything is so much more planned whereas before I haven’t felt like that. This campaign there’s been so much precision and the path to what we want to achieve seems so much clearer than it ever has before,” the Dunbartonshire woman says.

“I feel really proud of the campaign we’ve put together and I definitely feel we’ve put the building blocks in place to do well but sport in general, and sailing in particular, has so many variables and there’s very much an element of having to see how it goes on the day. 

“If I have a wobble of confidence then I try to take a step back and look at the support we’ve got around us and the preparation we’ve done and that really helps and I think well, good luck to everybody else competing with the set-up we’ve got.

“And so I feel like whatever happens, we’ve done everything we can and so you can’t do more than that.

“I still feel nervous but that’s a good thing, I wouldn’t want no nerves but I don’t feel intimidated by those nerves. 

“I do let myself think about winning gold because I know that if I was to try to stop myself thinking of that entirely, the thought will still inevitably come into my head and then you end up using up so much energy trying to squash it. So I just let my thoughts go and lean into that nervousness.”

With the sailing venue in Fujisawa City, around 35 miles from the Olympic Village in Tokyo, Dobson and her team-mates will be removed from the centre of the Games. 

Team GB officials have, as is invariably the case, left no stone unturned and with the British sailing squad having their own base, will be able to prepare as well as could be expected in the circumstances.

Uncertainties abound ahead of the arrival in Tokyo and Dobson is well aware this will be a very different Olympic experience from her previous one. But, as she is going there to perform rather than purely to enjoy the Olympic experience, Dobson is content everything is in place to allow her to do that. 

“We just don’t really know what we’re going into. GB has its own accommodation set-up which is slightly separated from the sailing village which I think could be a huge advantage for us,” she says.

“There’s going to be so much noise though with all the rules and restrictions – and all of the restrictions are vitally important to keeping everyone safe – but in terms of delivering a performance, it makes it harder and so we’ll have to make sure we’re aware of how much energy we’re expending on all of that stuff. 

“We’ll just have to be really adaptable when we get out there and take it all day by day.”