Etchells Nationals entry deadline looming for quality fleet

Zhik Etchells 2012 Australian Championship
Damian Devine
Entry to the Zhik International Etchells 2012 Australian Championship, to be held by Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club in Sydney, closes in just under one week on 2nd February.

Regatta Director David Ritchard is looking forward to welcoming entries from around Australia even if the skippers haven’t qualified for the World Championship in Sydney, to be held later in the month. Registration for the event will be held on Thursday ninth and Friday 10th February. Included in the program is pre-measurement of the boats that are competing in the Worlds.

'From Monday sixth to Thursday ninth we plan is to do as many boats as possible. This will help take the load off when the boats go down to Sydney,' Ritchard said.

World Champion in 2010 and defending national champion, John Bertrand, will be back at another tilt at the national title. The national champion in 2010 and 2011, Bertrand will be facing a very tough fleet with up to 70 boats expected on the start line on Saturday 11th February for the four day, eight race, offshore series.

Initial entries include previous World Champions Cameron Miles and John Savage, gold medal 2000 Olympian Tom King and Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race multiple winning skipper Mark Richards. International entries have come from New Zealand, Hong Kong and America.

A serious contender for the national title will be the Magpie Team lead by Graeme Taylor. They recently won the Zhik Etchells NSW State Championship title sailed on the same offshore course as programmed for the nationals.

Taylor’s focus for the nationals will be on improving his team’s performance in the offshore conditions. 'The more you do the better it is for you. It is more difficult sailing offshore so the more time you can spend sailing out there, the better it is.

'There will be some very good teams (at the nationals) that won’t be affected by the transition and that weren’t at the State championship, but have done a lot offshore sailing before.

'For us the nationals, to a degree, will be a warm-up regatta for the Worlds. If we have anything to try, we will be trying it during the regatta. We will however be taking it seriously and if we get the opportunity to win, we will take it. But, it is more of a warm-up program for us for the main game.'

During the State Championship Taylor’s team were testing out a new light-air jib and still found time to race aggressively and successfully. There’s a good chance they will be again be up the front of the fleet, even with more sailing testing and a change in team members.

Joining Mornington-based Taylor and long-term crew member, Sydney-sider Steve Jarvin, will be highly respected sailor, Grant Simmer. A man of many sailing talents and an old hand at Etchells racing, Simmer has a proven track record as technical manager and consultant to numerous international sailing programs, and as a sail-maker and tactician.

'We are pretty lucky to get him. He is doing the Worlds with us as well’, Taylor said.

The International Etchells 2012 Australian Championship is sponsored by Zhik, North Sails, Pacesetter Yachts, Protector Yachts and Wetton Signage Group.

The full entry list can be found on the event website http://www.rpayc.com.au/championship/int-etchells-class-australian-championship