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SA’s duo of 49ers set sights on Rio 2016

49er-Elena Giolai

They’ve seen their teammates doing it, and now it’s the turn of SA 49er sailors Graeme Willcox and Andrew Tarboton to try and add their names to the team list for the Rio Olympics next year.
The duo left for Argentina this week where they will first compete in the South American Championships from 5-8 November before embarking on their Olympic qualifying quest at the World Championships at the same venue in Buenos Aires from 16-21 November.
Laser sailor Stefano Marcia was the first South African to qualify his boat in July and the 470 pair of Asenathi Jim and Roger Hudson followed last month.
But it will be tougher than ever for Johannesburg’s Willcox and Pietermaritzburg’s Tarboton to qualify. ‘The 49er class only has 20 slots allocated to it for the Games. This means the 49er class is the smallest men’s class at the Games,’ explained Willcox. ‘This also means that there are only three spots available at this World Championships
‘With some big names like Germany, Sweden and Poland having not qualified yet, it will be a monumental battle to break into this group. However, this is sport and the margins between first and last in this world class fleet are so small, it only takes getting one or two things right, while other teams stumble in a few races, and you’re in with a shout,’ he added.
The pair have embarked on this campaign despite having to work full-time jobs to fund their training and travel, but have made the most of long, summer evenings in their base in England over the last few months.
‘We have been fortunate this summer, as we have done many European events, which has given us a lot of race training. So we will come into this worlds much more race fit than we did in 2014,’ explained Willcox. ‘We have had some training days with a coach in a RIB and used these to the full. This allows us to get video footage of us sailing from outside the boat, to allow us to work on the finer points. So we feel we have come quite a long way in the last year and look to build this experience into a good result at the Worlds.’
Speaking about their teammates already having achieved qualification (with their selection for the final team to Rio just awaiting a final tick from SASCOC), Willcox said: ‘It has been very inspirational to watch first Stef and then Asenathi and Roger achieve their goals.
‘Having grown up with them and sailed against them most of our lives, it is firstly great to see friends fulfil their dreams, but also see their results inspire the next generation of sailors in South Africa. One of our main goals was to give the youth in South African sailing the confidence to go out and try. Be that trying to race around the world in the Volvo Ocean race, or reach the Olympic Games, or even to go out and win a national title in a local sailing class.
‘But I digress, having both of the other teams already qualified does bring with it its own pressure, but pressure is good. It helps focus you and drives you toward your goal.’
Willcox and Tarboton have been running a crowdfunding campaign to fund their road to Rio.
To support them, the public can follow the link: https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/RSA49er

Picture of Willcox and Tarboton courtesy of Elena Giolai.


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