by Mandy McEvoy
Rex Gorell Prestige 2011 Etchells Australian Championships - Coming into my first Etchell’s regatta and it being a Nationals (no pressure) I had heard from many experienced one- design sailors 'consistency is key' and it certainly proved that way on the leader board at the end of the 2011 International Etchells Australian Championships hosted by Royal Geelong Yacht Club (RGYC) from eighth – 15th January 2011.
Triad crew (L to R) Grant Simmer, Andrew Palfrey and John Bertrand - 2011 Rex Gorell Prestige Etchells Australian Championship
Etchells have widely been described as 'Olympic Sailing in non Olympic years' and we had incredible talent out on the water for the week.
The International Etchell’s current World Champion, a man that certainly needs no introduction to those of us in yachting circles (plus I don’t have enough room to recite all his achievements – in or out of an Etchells – John Bertrand (JB) and his team on board Triad won with 34 points (dropping their first race place of 24, they were 1/3/9/4/5/12 for the week) from Mark Bulka and his team on Perfect Balance on 36 points (1/8//16/2/4/5) from the Hong Kong guys on Racer X 923, skippered by Mark Thornburrow 37 points (12/3/8// 9/3/2).
Triad also won the Masters Division (average age of 50 years) and even the Grand Masters (JB thanked Grant for that one!) – a veritable 'clean sweep' and at presentation Jake Gunter (The Boat and Vice President and Governor of Australian Etchell’s Fleet) presented JB with a wonderful framed photo from the recent World’s in Howarth, Ireland – acknowledging his fantastic and important contribution to the Etchells class on the Australian and indeed International stage.
John was ably assisted by Andrew 'Dog' Palfrey (coach of Artemis Racing) who he has been sailing with for some three years but seconded Grant Simmer back to Oz from his current residence in the UK, where he has been presiding as CEO of the now abandonned English America’s Cup 'Team Origin' after previously on the Directorship of Alinghi. Grant, as navigator greatly assisted John helming Australia II to that incredible America’s Cup victory in Rhode Island 1983.
It was certainly great to meet Grant – in so many humbling ways – but none more than the fact I finally met someone that bruises worse than I do after a hard day on the ‘racetrack’! He spoke openly about the joy of sailing again with John after many years and (more generally) being back on an Etchells after some 12 odd years. Their crew work was a testimony to the men, all talented yachtsmen (obviously) but I can certainly vouch they are 'good blokes' too.
Australian Champions - Triad at Presentation Dinner with Tim Clark, Geelong Fleet Captain and Rex Gorrell Prestige (Event Sponser) Representative Brett Gorrell - International Etchells Australian Championships 2011
Now back to consistency – we had none from the Weather Gods ... and there was some concern from our PRO Greg 'Spud' Sinclair early that we would not get a Regatta, given that six races constituted a Regatta in the Sailing Instructions such that by Day 2 Spud amended them to four races and five plus with a drop. We got that eventually with a seven race Regatta but boy with many postponements due to lack of breeze, forecast too much breeze or lack of consistency to set a stable course added to unusual humidity and lack of visibility with constant rain made it a most challenging week out there on Corio Bay.
I don’t have to tell you all about La Nina and the most extreme version in some 35 years here in Oz but she was out in force on Corio Bay .... NNE at 20-30kt’s one day had locals shaking their heads – never had they seen wind at that direction at that velocity for so long!
The minor placing’s were close too with Mornington sailor Graeme 'GT' Taylor on Magpie taking out fourth place with 44 points, Noel 'Nitro' Drennan on Jack’s Hut fifth on count back 51 points from Gary Boyd on B Squared; Damien King on Barry 54 points; Brad Sheridan US Forces 1223 57 points; Cameron Miles on Are we there yet ? 59 points and 10th place went to David Clark’s Fifteen 64 points.
Special Mentions must go to the 'Big Boat' boys from Living Doll – Mike Hiatt bought two Etchells from the US mid last year and his 'partner in crime' Shogun Skipper Rob Hanna a new one too and all three boats – Bad Doll, Extra Bad Doll and Smoking Gun had a good Regatta.
Unfortunately Mike Hiatt was unable to steer due to a broken elbow sustained on Living Doll at this year’s Sydney to Hobart, so he was resting up to compete in Audi Victoria Week but came down a few days to spectate and cheer the boys on. My favourite boat – Grand V or 'the Red boat' as we named her for her red hull had a glamour end to the Regatta with a 10th. The boat, owned by Gordon Hinds was purchased for a mere $5,000 – hence the name.
I was certainly honoured to be in such fine sailing Company and revelled in it all. RGYC did a marvellous job in hosting us all – especially the cafe girls who got swamped on the testing days where 51 teams from 12 odd yacht clubs bunkered down at the club whilst Race Officials tried diligently to get us out and racing. Next stop Victorian State Titles, March long weekend hosted by Royal Brighton Yacht Club.