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Rodney Pattison retains Olympic Gold 1972

Rodney Pattison

© SCRAN

Born in Campbeltown, Argyll on 4th August 1943, Rodney Stuart Pattisson can justifiably claim to be Scotland's most successful sailor ever, winning two Olympic gold and one silver medal.

Having been educated at Pangbourne College, a school with strong nautical connections, before joining the Royal Navy, Pattisson's emergence as a world class sailor should not have come as too much of a surprise.

He teamed up with a London solicitor, Ian MacDonald Smith, and the two were selected to represent Great Britain in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics in the “Flying Dutchman“class - a 20 foot, 2 man yacht after winning the Olympic trials.

After winning the European Championships, their preparation was meticulous as they travelled out to Mexico two months ahead of the event in order to acclimatise to the local conditions on their boat “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, not surprisingly shortened to “Superdocious”.

The pair were almost unbeatable in the event in which they had to count their best six out of seven race scores.

Apart from one disqualification, which naturally they chose as their non-scouting score, they won five out of six races and claimed the gold medal with a score of only three penalty points, something which had never been achieved before in an Olympic regatta. That score secured a huge winning margin over the silver medallists, the West German duo of Ulrich Libor and Peter Naumann.

In winning the gold, Rod became the first Scot to win an Olympic gold in any sport for 12 years and was the first to win any type of sailing medal. Pattisson and MacDonald-Smith dominated in the World Championships too, winning the title in Naples in 1969 and again in Adelaide in 1970, before Pattison lifted the crown for a third consecutive year in 1971, this time partnered by Justin Brooke Houghton, when the event was held at La Rochelle.


However, it was for his Olympic success that Pattisson was most feted, and four years after his first win, he repeated his success this time in partnership with Christopher Davies as they beat the French pair of Yves and Marc Pajot into second place.

Rod's achievement in winning gold medals in consecutive Olympiads was recognised as the 1976 games got underway in Montreal and he was awarded the honour of being the flag-bearer at the opening ceremony.

By now, Rod had reverted to sailing alongside an old partner, this time Justin Brooke Houghton, with whom he had won the world title five years before, was alongside him and the pair put in a gallant bid to win the title for Great Britain yet again, before finally having to concede second best to the West German pair of Jörg Diesch and Eckart Diesch.

Pattisson retired from Olympic sailing, concentrating instead on multi-hulled events, which he did with great success.

His achievements were recognised as he was elected to both the Sailing Hall of Fame and, in 2003, to the Scottish Sport Hall of Fame. He is also a recipient of an MBE.

While Pattisson was the first Scot to win a gold medal in sailing, he was not the last. His success paved the way for others, with Michael McIntyre following in his footsteps to win gold in the “Star” class, in the Seoul games of 1988, before Shirley Robertson clinched the top honour in the “Europe” class in the 2000 games in Sydney and then repeated her triumph in the “Yngling” class in the 2004 Athens games.

His influence was not limited to Scotland, and another Briton, England's Ben Ainslie, another double Olympic gold medallist paid tribute to Rod saying “My generation grew up knowing about Rodney Pattisson and his two golds and a silver from the 1968, 1972 and 1976 Games.”

Written by: Dave Low



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