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SA 49er duo win one race but miss out on 2016 Olympic slot
- Updated: December 1, 2015
South Africa’s 49er sailors, Graeme Willcox and Andrew Tarboton, have missed out on a place on Team South Africa to Rio next year but are determined to continue their quest to represent the country at an Olympic Games.
The duo missed out on a spot in the gold fleet – and therefore a shot at Olympic qualification – in the recently completed 49er World Championships in Buenos Aires, Argentina. But an impressive first place in the ninth race of the competition has given them cause for optimism going forward.
‘Not bagging one of the Olympic places was a disappointment, although as the results show, it was a very closely fought battle, with the three spots available going to teams finishing within the top 10 – this is the level of the fleet,’ explained Pietermaritzburg’s Tarboton. ‘We were also the only team at the regatta without a coach.’
Achieving a first place finish in Argentina was, of course, a massive highlight – as Willcox explained: ‘We are very happy with our race win. It was the first day of stronger wind, and the storms around the area made the conditions very transient, so it was key to keep an eye out for the next wind shift.
‘We got onto the race course early and tuned the boat and settings so we were happy with our speed. Then we formulated a plan for the start and the race and were able to execute the plan well, having a good start and moving well through the water,’ he added.
‘We were on the attack from the word go, gaining positions on every leg of the race, and as we approached the final upwind mark, we noticed a big gust on the right hand side of the course and so we immediately gybed at the top mark and went downwind on port tack. The five boats ahead of us at that stage went straight around the top.
‘We dialled into the new pressure and sailed the boat well in the building chop, with two short gybes at the bottom of the course to get us through the line claiming the all-important gun.’
Speaking about the plan going forward, Tarboton added: ‘We have taken many positives from the event. All the hard work we had put in this year had clearly paid off and we are sailing the boat better and smoother.
‘As with every event we do, we have identified areas where we can continue to improve as we seek to move further up the world rankings. Over the next few weeks we will formulate a strategy of how best to use our resources and skills to move up to the next level and be more consistent at the front of the fleet.
‘Although the result at this regatta wasn’t to our liking, we are going to continue with our goal of qualifying South Africa for the Olympic Games and inspiring the next generation of South African sailors to do the same.’
Picture of Tarboton and Willcox courtesy of Mike Millard