2015 49er World Championships – locals faring well

2015 49er World Championships – locals faring well

Point Yacht Club – Durban
Interview with Andrew Tarboton, Pietermaritzburg born and aiming for Rio 2016

Currently competing in the biggest regatta of their lives, two South Africans are racing in the 2015 49er World Championships on the waters of Club Nautico in San Isidro, a province just north of Buenos Aires.

Graeme Willcox and home-grown talent, Andrew Tarboton, hope that over the remainder of this week, their dream of competing at the Rio 2016 will be realised. This is a tough ask, with only 20 teams getting the chance to compete in the 49er class at the Olympics. So far half of that allocation has been filled with two teams from Oceania, and eight teams from Europe already qualifying in the 2014 World Champs.

Competing on Lake Garda, Graeme Wilcox and Andrew Tarboton glide through a tack as they compete on the European circuit recently. The team are competing in the 49er World Championships in the hope of qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.  Pic by Elena Giolai

Competing on Lake Garda, Graeme Wilcox and Andrew Tarboton glide through a tack as they compete on the European circuit recently. The team are competing in the 49er World Championships in the hope of qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Pic by Elena Giolai

The pair of Willcox and Tarboton has been campaigning for three years, “I personally have been trying for over five years, and after one failed partnering, I teamed up with Graeme to give it another go!” explained Pietermaritzburg’s Tarboton.

Having grown up on the waters at the Henley Midmar Yacht Club, 2015 is proving to be quite an auspicious year for Tarboton, who recently announced his engagement to Lizzie Shawcroft. He celebrated his 30th birthday this year too, and has finished off the year sailing his heart out in South America, in the hopes of representing South Africa next year at the Olympics.

According to the young sailor, they have come a long way in their sailing but the competition is relentless. “We have always been pushing the main pack, but due to our lack of time on the water, we generally fall just behind the pack by the finish. An indication of the level of competition here is the fact that the London 2012 Gold medalists Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen didn’t make the medal race last week in the tune-up race. The South American Champs gave us a chance to begin tuning the boat we have chartered, and familiarising ourselves with it and the local conditions. We were trying a lot of new things and experimenting with strategies and techniques. We finished 49th out of 53 boats.

Tarboton is pleased with their progress at the Worlds, “we notched up an eighth and 22nd today so we are hoping to build on that, stretch our legs and move up the leaderboard. We pulled up to 46th overall out of 61 teams, a good day on the water.”

Asked what is the most difficult thing about campaigning for Rio 2016, Tarboton says unequivocally, “Lack of resources. We are competing at an amateur level in a professional world. At many of the regattas, we are the only team without a coach, and have the least practice time of anyone there!

Now resident in the UK, a choice dictated by the proximity to the European racing circuit, Tarboton describes his childhood passion for sailing as having been born and nurtured on the water at Midmar.
I have always loved skiff sailing and have known since I was a boy, sailing on Midmar, that I wanted to sail 49ers. Carving it up in 15-18knots of breeze, in big rolling swells on a 49er, the sort of conditions we experienced in Porto is what dreams are made of. When we were really young, my dad Rob would race his fireball at Midmar, and in the afternoon after racing, he would come back and take my brother, my mom and I out for a sail. These memories certainly moulded my life path. I was fortunate enough to sail the 2005 29er World Champs with my dad in San Francisco Bay and we won a race. And now a decade later here I am, striving towards competing at the Olympics.”

The former Maritzburg College lad says, “If I had to give advice to anyone, it would be to follow your dreams and never give up! I don’t want any regrets later in my life. I want to look back and say that I gave it everything I had. I changed career, moved halfway around the world, and took up the challenge. Ignorance is bliss,” he smiles, “plunge head first into your dreams and work it out as you go!

It’s now back to winter training in the UK, for Tarboton, before heading out to Palma, Spain, in April for the opening event of the 2016 Summer Season. Tarboton and his fiancee will get a bit of downtime and get down to the exploring new places, with their puppy Roxy.
The determined team of Graeme Willcox and Andrew Tarboton are pushing hard in day three of the 2015 49er World Championships taking place in Argentina where they hope to reach their ultimate goal of qualifying and competing in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

For more info, visit http://49er.org/willcoxtarboton/ or https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/RSA49er