Andrew Tarboton representing South Africa at 49er World Championship

Interview with Andrew Tarboton

49er World Championship

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

 49er World Championship sailing
Pictured 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.


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.


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.


Continuing, “We started with a national ranking regatta in the UK, just for fun, we both felt we did fairly well, so I asked Graeme if he was keen to campaign. We have done more of the circuit each year and have competed at regattas in Spain, France, Italy, Holland, Germay, UK, Portugual, and now in Argentina.”


Having grown up on the waters at the Henley Midmar Yacht Club, 2015 is proving to be quite an auspicious year for Tarboton, having just recently gotten engaged to Lizzie Shawcroft, 2015 also marked him celebrating his 30th birthday, with the conclusion to his year – sailing his heart out in South America in the hopes of representing South Africa next year at the Olympics.


“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. Our sailing has come a long way but the competition is relentless! To give you an idea of the competitiveness here, 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 getting used to it, as well as learning the local conditions, so we were trying a lot of new things and experimenting with strategies and techniques. We finished 49th out of 53 boats.”

“In the second day of racing 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 states, “Lack of resources! We are competing at an amateur level in a professional world, many of the regattas we do, we are the only team without a coach, and have the least practice time of anyone there!”

“And the best thing about campaigning for Rio 2016 is that we have sailed in some amazing venues all over the world. Sailing with Graeme, when we really have the boat in the groove and going well, sailing is very addictive! Graeme is calm on the helm, always in good spirits, we make a formidable team.”


“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. I am most at peace in life when I am on the water; sailing is a fantastic experience for all your senses, so pure and so free!”


“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.”


Residing in Hamble, near Southampton in the UK, Tarboton moved to England to be close to the competitive sailing circuit, “There are some stunning venues to go sailing in Europe, and you basically choose the conditions you want to sail in and there is a venue that provides those exact conditions! It is really easy to get anywhere in Europe, and the level of sailing is always high.”
The former Maritzburg College lad states, “If I had to give advice to anyone, I would really emphasise to follow your dreams and never give up! I have embarked on this campaign because I don’t want any regrets later in 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 I presented myself with. If I were to look at the challenge now, knowing what I have learned from it, I would be more hesitant, but ignorance is bliss and so plunge head first into your dreams and work it out as you go!”


The upbeat and optimistic character enthused, “After this it is back to winter training back in the UK, before heading out to Palma, Spain, in April for the opening event of the 2016 Summer Season. Lizzie and I will get a bit of downtime which typically allows us to explore with our puppy, Roxy. We love seeing new places and learning about people, past, present and future.”


Endeavouring in the present, 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 being qualifying and competing in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.


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Thanks Sophie Thompson for the interview

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