The big prize at the Etchells Australian Championship

Etchells Association President, Jake Gunther, helming Dawn Raid. - Entire 2013 Etchells Victorian State Championship
It seems there is a lot of attention paid by all sailors at the 2013-14 Etchells Australian Championship to getting a bullet. Now whilst only one crew will achieve that particular prize, it would seem that all sailors are getting something very much just as valuable, if not as immediately identifiable – knowledge wrapped up in a blanket of good times.

Class President, Jake Gunther elaborated further. ‘Personally, we are happy to be in the mix, but like everyone, we’re so excited to be in amongst a fleet like this. A collection of crews that is quite heavily laden with AC, VOR and World Champion legends. To be here and actually see how well the sailing is going is quite something. The standard is awesome – in fact Etchells is the standard! The Melges had like five boats and the SB20s only got 11 out on the water for their nationals.’

‘Etchells are all really true One Design. The hulls may well be of different ages, so it simply comes down to who’s on top of their game. All the sailors are telling me how much they’re learning about their sailing and getting tips from others and then seeing improvements in their racing and also the scoreboard. We’re lucky that it is an ‘open’ fleet and knowledge is being shared. John Bertrand (current leader) is here chatting away to those who just ask him question. This is great stuff and tremendous for the Class and our sport.’

‘A lot of the crews from my home fleet in Melbourne (Brighton) have spoken about how wonderful it is to get some cracking racing in. This is happening all the way through the fleet, irrespective of where they might place. I’ve seen them learn tips like easing the mainsheet in certain conditions and then watch the boat fly off. Etchells are a hard school, but a good school’, Gunther finished with.

Should'a Gone Left mates Wayne Dixon, Peter Coleman and Iain Gartley - Zhik Etchells National Championship 2012

Now they have seen many a nautical mile, but always have an open mind. Peter Coleman, Wayne Dixon and Iain Gartley from Should’a Gone Left were yesterday saying to themselves that should’a gone home! ‘We’re going stay after today’s effort. Yesterday we were walking away from sailing all together. It is such a who’s who here at the nationals and what a buzz to be around all these legends.’

‘We’re really happy with today’s 10th place and that’s why Hughie is giving us a thunder and lightning show right now. It is very much a good bit of fun and nice to sail in the warm weather. It’s up there with the famous hard bar (under the Etchells parked on the hardstand at the end of Brighton Pier in Melbourne). As an example of the hilarity ashore, there are a lot of people talking about how Noel ‘Nitro’ Drennan of North Sails Melbourne is trying to win the mid-fleet prize of the North Sails jib after his 16th place today.’

‘Seriously though, über-sailors like Grant Simmer, Andrew ‘Doggy’ Palfrey, Jake Gunther and Nitro himself have made a lot of time to help us and we’re very appreciative’, said Coleman.

‘PRO Kevin Wilson and his team doing a great job out on the track, so we’re really enjoying it all immensely. Special mention to Kelvin Holdt from the Southport Yacht Club. He’s an amazing person and has everything taken care of. He’s organising it and sailing in it on Funky Cold Medina - so much energy. Kelvin does look after everyone, so it is no wonder we all want to take him home to our respective clubs.’

Lining up in the driving rain are Vicky Weeks, Christine Short, Kate Beasley, Antonia Fong and Jeanne-Claude Strong. - 2013 Etchells NSW Championship
Kylie Wilson Positive Image

Jeanne-Claude Strong has bought her Yandoo XX to the Gold Coast, along with regular crew of Nev Whittey, Marcus Burke and Tiana Whittey. As such, it makes her the only female driver out there this time. ‘I am really happy to see many boats with two girls on board, just as we have Tiana and myself.’

With a 10th, 11th and 12th place amongst her credits, Yandoo XX sits in 14th place overall tonight. ‘I would love a win, but it’s hard with this lot. We’re in there trying – I tell you!’

Yandoo XX, Jean Claude Strong , Etchells Worlds 2012, Sydney - Etchells Worlds 2012 Sydney

‘Fabulous conditions, although today was a bit tougher with shifts and then the light and variable got the better of it. Really enjoying it all, however.’

A self-deprecating Strong added, ‘Boat on boat we’re happy. Maybe we could get some better starts – I’m blonde and female, so I suppose I could concentrate better. We do keep on trying to look for clean air, so cheers to Nev for all his tactics, as well as Marcus and Tiana for their great efforts. We work well together as a whole crew and are a quiet boat – mostly. We had a super close call on whilst on starboard at the bottom mark yesterday – that got us fired up a bit, but you do get that in one of these fleets. We stood to lose the rig and also get holed, so delighted that did not come to pass.’ To make amends for the last time Tiana was at a regatta, this scribe would like to mention her name again, so that her school friends do indeed know she is at a sporting event and not skylarking.

Etchells Worlds 2012, Yandoo XX's Tiana Wittey and Menace's Harry Smith, youngest members of the fleet
Anousha Fluck - copyright

‘We are absolutely keen to earn one of those famous bullets – it’s a fairly attractive item. Mick Doohan (multiple 500cc World Champion) is a friend and he always reminds me that second is the first of the losers. Harsh perhaps, but I do use it as motivation out there’, Jeanne-Claude finished by saying.

Kevin Wilson - International Dragons World
John Curnow ©

Catching PRO Kevin Wilson after the day’s racing, we got to learn that, ‘The racetrack is down off Marina Mirage, about 2nm South of the sea-lane. We had lumpy seas for the first two days and not so much today. Tuesday produced a big swell and cross wave, whereas yesterday offered up a 2m swell with no chop and today it was just half a metre.’
‘The course range is 1.5 to 1.6 nm, so as to allow for 70 to 75 minute races (elapsed time), which we alter depending on breeze. For today’s race we had 8-12 knots on offer. Thee earlier days produced a maximum of 16knots with an average of 10 for day one and 13 for day two. Today we set a course axis of 025? and then moved it for the second beat to 010?. The thunderstorm dragged the breeze to the West and it kept moving on us prior to the second start, and then dropped off completely. So at 1430hrs we flew AP over A and sent them all home.’

A happy Kevin also reported that it is four races for a series and five for a drop, which occurred today. Anything more from here is a bonus – one all sailors will be ecstatic about. ‘It certainly is a very competitive fleet, so I am a little surprised that we have not had to get the Black Flag out yet – just the one General Recall. So they are all behaving and playing nicely – generally’, Kevin finished with.

Now only one crew usually claims a bullet per race and alas at the end, and as was said in Highlander, ‘There can only be one!’ In the meantime the sailors and Etchells Class are certainly the winners for good sailing, great knowledge and more than a healthy dose of fun. See http://www.etchells.org.au/ for more information.