From Optimists to the Olympics, Andrew Lewis is on his way to Weymouth to represent Trinidad & Tobago in the 2012 Summer Olympics in the Laser class.
Lewis, now age 22, started his sailing and racing career in an Optimist dinghy.
“Growing up in a sailing family, I was always in contact with the sport and the environment,” he says. “In 2003, as a young 14-year-old sailor, I had a dream to represent my country at the Olympics. In 2006, my coach told me that I had the potential to compete in the Beijing Olympics in 2008. I have always been competitive. I like testing myself and surpassing expectations. I have never stopped working towards my goal of qualifying for the Olympics and now I have achieved it.”
The Laser was a natural progression from the Optimist for Lewis. It’s also a class where he’s shown great aptitude. Early on, he finished an impressive 2nd at the 2007 Qingdao Sailing Test event for the Beijing Olympics. He also won two Caribbean and Central American Games (CAC) regattas, made Gold Fleet in the Olympic Class Regatta in Miami, qualified for the Pan American Games and finished in the Gold Fleet at the 2011 Laser Europeans in Finland, Sail Melbourne and the ISAF World Cup in Palma, Spain.
Lewis missed qualifying for the Olympics by seven places at the 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships in Perth. He had a second opportunity at the Audi World Laser Championships in Germany, where 29 countries competed for 12 spots. Lewis was able to secure one of the 12 spots and thus qualify for London.
“In competitions leading up to the Championship in May, I would gauge to see where I was amongst the 12,” Lewis explains. “In Germany, my goal was to make the Gold Fleet, which would have ensured my qualification. I started in the worst possible way with two black flag disqualifications in my first two races. I knew it was uphill from there, but I remained focused. At the end of the preliminary stage, I did not make the Gold Fleet, so had to compete in the Silver Fleet. There were six spots available, and 12 countries competing for them. I fancied my chances but knew I still had to execute. At one point, I slipped out of the top six, but motivated myself to get back into the qualification zone. And I made it.”
Lewis headed back to Trinidad & Tobago in May to work on his strength and conditioning training. He left at the end of the month for Weymouth to train in Olympic waters, competed in a couple of regattas on the European circuit and then began his Olympic preparation at the end of June.
“To compete in the Olympics is a realization of a childhood dream,” Lewis says. “It represents the idea that hard work, dedication, sacrifice and sheer will power can help anyone achieve their goals. I am honored for the opportunity to represent my country on the highest stage and am eager to do it and our citizens proud by my performances.”
What does Lewis recommend to other young Caribbean sailors who would like to follow in his wake?
“Work hard and always believe in yourself and your ability,” Lewis says. “Not everyone is going to support you. It will be difficult and you will be faced with many challenges. You have to stay focused and patient. Never lose sight of your goals and one day you will attain them. Do your best!”
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.