Anna Burnet has had an eventful few weeks, to put it mildly.

Securing Olympic qualification in GB’s sailing team wasn’t enough for the 31-year-old from the Argyllshire village of Shandon; she also undertook a treacherous crossing of the Irish Sea in an attempt to increase awareness about climate change and the urgency to decarbonise the maritime sector.

Her selection for Team GB for next summer’s Olympics has ensured she is one of just a select few who have, so far, secured their seat on the plane to Paris next year.

But perhaps even more significant an event for the Nacra 17 specialist in recent weeks was her dangerous crossing between Northern Ireland and Scotland, which she undertook with her regular sailing partner, Englishman John Gimson.

The pair sailed from Belfast to Portpatrick on Scotland’s west coast and back in just 90 minutes and 11 seconds, setting a new world record and in the process, shining an important light on the issue of climate change.

And so, despite the issue of Olympic qualification being a priority this year, Burnet was eager to ensure they found the time to fit in this crossing and highlight, as forcefully as they could, an issue that is extremely close to their hearts.

“Trying to find the time to do the crossing was difficult,” Burnet, the 2020 Nacra 17 World champion, says.

“John and I both are very passionate about the sustainability side of things – being sailors, marine pollution has been at the forefront of our minds and is something we’ve seen a lot of over the years. It’s becoming more of a problem too so we wanted to do something to raise awareness about things like the new technology that’s out there that can help combat the pollution and improve the rain decarbonisation going forward.

“And we knew we had to pick something that people would latch onto and would get some media attention for being a tough challenge.”

Despite having spent a decade as an elite sailor, however, Burnet admitted the record-setting crossing gave her more than a few nervous moments.

But the rewards, which included international coverage, meant they are in no doubt their efforts were fully justified.

“The sail was full-on. Storm Agnes was about to come in and it had already been very windy for a few days so the waves were really big – they were about 2 or three metres high,” she says.

“We’d go flying down the waves and crash at the bottom of them so it was worse conditions than we’d ever raced in – we’ve trained in those kind of conditions but in a much more controlled environment

“So it was scary - it’s hard not to feel like that. It’s a small boat and there’s only two of us on it and as soon as you can’t see the shore anymore, it can feel pretty scary. You’re out there, at the mercy of mother nature. You feel like a very small thing in a very big sea.

“But the publicity we got exceeded our expectations, which was amazing. A lot of people probably weren’t aware of the technology that’s there for the future so it was amazing and it’s inspired us to do more to help the cause.”

With their world record and associated publicity duly achieved, Burnet has now turned her attention back to competitive sailing.

Her selection for next summer’s Olympic Games, in GB’s first wave of athletes, has ensured she can now look forward to her second Olympic appearance having made her debut at Tokyo 2020, winning Nacra 17 silver in the process.

The Herald: Anna Burnet

Her early selection for these Games is in stark contrast to her last Olympic outing, which saw her and Gimson make the team at the last minute.

And as one of the most-decorated pairs in GB’s sailing squad heading to Paris next summer, there’s no shortage of both internal and external pressure on the Scot.

However, she knows all too well the unlikeliness of major sailing events following the plan and so she’s as unhampered by expectation as someone who’s striving to become Olympic champion can be.

“It’s amazing to be selected already - it’s a relief to get that ticked off and means we can now focus entirely on what we want to do at the Olympics instead of having that niggling question in your head about whether we’ll actually be there or not,” she says.

“It’s definitely a different feeling this time around. There’s no returning gold medallists in the British team for Paris and with us having been to an Olympics and won silver, there’s a bit of pressure on us to go there and step up.

“Sailing, though, is an unpredictable sport so we’ll put pressure on ourselves to win gold but at the end of the day, we can only do what we can do.”

Before Burnet signs off for her winter training, which will see her and Gimson based on the Italian island of Sicily for the next four months, she has the small matter of this week’s European Nacra 17 Championships in the Portuguese resort of Vilamoura to attend to.

Having already won World Championship silver this year, she and Gimson are in little doubt they’re sailing well but with this week’s event coming at the end of a long, hard season, she admits she’s somewhat unsure if they’ll be able to add further to their already impressive medal haul.

“The Euros is the end of a tough season and I picked up an injury at the Worlds so we’ve not done too much training since then,” she says. 

“We will, of course, though, go in wanting to do the best we can and it’d be amazing to win a medal.”