BY DAVID SLY
As one of the world’s foremost yacht racing judges, David Tillett mixes with the highest echelon of yachting enthusiasts, with Prince Frederik of Denmark and the royal families of Monaco and Greece among them. He may not race but, like the athletes and competitors he judges, 60-year-old David is driven by a fierce competitive edge to be the very best in his field, having risen from humble beginnings in the Adelaide yachting fraternity five decades ago.
“That’s not so strange” insists David. “Adelaide produces a lot of great people who achieve a lot. It’s all about creating opportunities, then being driven to make the most of them.”
His journey began as a competitive sailor from age seven, sailing at Glenelg Yacht Club with his twin brother Christopher. His father Stephen (proprietor of S. D. Tillett Memorials) was a racing car champion, having won the 1951 Australian Grand Prix on handicap in an MG-TC, but mother Jill wanted her twin sons’ equally competitive streak realised in a less dangerous sport.
The Tillett twins were determined and focused on the water near their Glenelg North home from an early age. They took three state championships in Holdfast Trainers, then moved to international cadet class and – at the age of 12 – David set his sights on the world championship to be held in Hobart three years later, in 1969. The Tilletts were the first Australians to compete for seven years, and won the series comfortably, but their subsequent transition to Fireball class revealed a competitive problem; David was too small to crew for Christopher, and while they won races, they knew they would not be competitive at the highest level.