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Gold Medallist takes a Plunge in Portsmouth

Double Olympic gold medalist Shirley Ann Robertson OBE has taken the plunge at the University of Portsmouth’s extreme environment laboratory.

The broadcaster took a dip into a cold water immersion tank as part of filming for monthly sailing show MainSail on international news channel CNN. The episode in question was all about how to survive at sea and saw Robertson enter water at a temperature of 12 degrees Celsius in full sailing gear.

British sailor Shirley Ann Robertson OBE being lowered into the immersion tank

UoP press office British sailor Shirley Ann Robertson OBE being lowered into the immersion tank

The aim of the experiment was to examine the physiological effects of cold water immersion on a person who has fallen overboard.

During her time at the University, Shirley met with scientists from the Department of Sport and Exercise Science and received advice from professor of human and applied physiology, Mike Tipton, a world-renowned expert on survival at sea.

She said: “I was really impressed when I saw Professor Tipton on the Guy Martin show last year so approached him for advice on cold water immersion and what can be done to maximise potential survival time.

“I’m not very good with cold water after too many years sailing in Scotland! I much prefer to stay on the boat and can get a bit panicky even in warm water.

“The Extreme Environment Laboratory is a great facility. It’s so wide-reaching helping a variety of organisations, such as the RNLI, as well as the general public.”

The laboratory is equipped to assess human performance and survival in extreme environments. Its immersion pool can be set anywhere between two to 40 degrees Celsius and its three environmental chambers are capable of simulating altitudes up to the summit of Everest. Professor Tipton said: “It was fantastic to work with Shirley for her CNN show. Our facilities and team are here to provide life-saving safety advice to as many people as possible and shows like Shirley’s are a great vehicle for getting the preventative, life-saving, medical advice out to the public.”

The programme is available to view online at the CNN Sailing page.

Shirley Robertson made it into the history books by becoming the first British woman to win two Olympic Gold medals at consecutive games, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004.

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