Eighteen-year-old Trinidadian sailor Andrew Lewis had just left at press time to compete in the 2008 Laser Radial Men’s World Championship, in Takapuna, New Zealand. His goal: a ‘Wild Card’ slot for 2008.
“If I don’t get it, I’ll be there in 2012 once all goes to plan,” says Lewis, who has already achieved an impressive sailing resume.
Lewis’ route to the sea came through his father. “My dad was always a sailor and I started sailing because of his influence,” he said.
More so than other sports that can catch a teenage boy’s interests, Lewis says he found sailing to be “a one-of-a kind sport…like no other. It has so many opportunities. I just found that it was so unique. I could never give it up from the time I started sailing.”
Lewis began his sailing career in the Optimist dinghy. He sailed local, regional and international competitions, including the Optimist World Championships where in 2004 he finished a remarkable 38th out of 228 competitors with four top 10 finishes. This feat showed he had what it took to go to the next step.
“The Laser so far has been fantastic for me. Some of these regattas in which I compete are in Radials. I’m on the light side of the Laser, so I’m able to sail in both classes, Radial and Full Rig,” Lewis says. “I really like one design sailing and the Laser is the perfect boat for starting an Olympic campaign.”
About his Olympic aspirations, he says, “A few years ago my goal was 2012 in the UK. But, then I discovered that I could go to China and perform in the light wind conditions. So, my life changed completely around.”
In the past year, Lewis has literally traveled the word in preparation and to fulfill his Olympic dream. He has competed in the Netherlands, Canada, Argentina, Ecuador, Australia and China.
“All the top Olympic sailors were in China and I competed with them in the 2007 Pre-Olympic Regatta. I finished second in one of the races and ended 25th out of 38 overall, so I would say this was my top regatta for the year.”
Another of Lewis’ impressive finishes included a 12th overall at the Laser South Americans in Ecuador, where he also scored a 2nd in the Under 18 age category.
Practice at home in Trinidad is also a big part of Lewis preparations.
“I normally sail four times a week and sometimes five. Currently, I’m trying to put on weight, so I have been in the gym with my trainer six days a week. My performance has really improved since I’ve started the gym training.”
Lewis performance on the international and Olympic sailing scene bodes well not only for himself, but for the Caribbean.
“Laser sailing in the Caribbean is only now developing and I tend to be struggling at times,” Lewis explains. “By people starting to see sailors from the region going to the Olympics and other big regattas worldwide, it will be recorded in the press and be a wake up call for sponsors.”
He offers this advice for up-and-coming Caribbean sailors who’d like to follow in his footsteps: “Firstly, never give up on your dreams. Secondly, try not to depend on others as this will help you to further your goals.”
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.
Photos courtesy of the Trinidad & Tobago Sailing Association.
HELPING PROSPECTIVE CARIBBEAN OLYMPIANS
Athletes mounting a campaign for the Olympics often welcome assistance. To contact Andrew Lewis, email him at [email protected] or the Trinidad & Tobago Sailing Association, Attn: Esther van Santen, P.O. Box 3140, Carenage, Trinidad, W.I. or (868) 634 – 1216.