The power of bling at the Etchells Australian Championship

Iris 3 , Peter McNeill, Etchells Worlds 2012, Sydney - Etchells Worlds 2012 Sydney
It is a long established fact that the Etchells always attract yachting’s best to their tight and well-organised events. At the 2013/14 Etchells Australian Championship, being run off the world famous Gold Coast, this is once again being totally ratified.

To be in the top ten, you need to have some serious bling attached to your name. A World Champion in this or other classes helps, as too a National or State title, having been an Olympian or living national heroes counts for a lot, as well as America’s Cup dignitary, let alone being an inshore or offshore legend. The former would include Peter ‘Polly’ McNeill and Matt Chew, the icon part is easy, it’s John Bertrand AO and Grant Simmer, where as the latter includes luminaries such as, Noel ‘Nitro’ Drennan, Mark ‘Squark’ Bradford, Andrew ‘Dog’ Palfrey and Class President and International Governor, Jake Gunther. A quick flick through the crew list highlights that it is not just the driver with these sorts of credentials, but many a crew member, as well.

Mark Bradford and the afterguard on Blackjack hard at work - Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
John Curnow ©

Catching up with International Governor and former Etchells World Champion, Poly McNeill is always a delight. This morning, he commented, ‘We’re off to the boat now as there is no swimming allowed to clean the hull, due to a few concerns about Bull sharks. Accordingly, Bunnings is doing a great business in all manner of brooms and the like.’
‘Thus far it has been good. We have got boat speed, we’re getting off the line well and mixing it up with the top end. Happy to have a couple of bullets under our belt and we’ll keep them for use with those sharks’, said McNeill with characteristic good humour.

‘It is pretty bumpy, especially coming out of the Southport Bar, but flattens out a bit from there. The waves do require you to have to steer through, however. This morning the surf is almost rideable for those with a different water born device.’

‘There is a long way top go and heaps of racing yet, so we’ll just chip away and hopefully well be there at the end. Concentration is key to keep the boat moving. There are sets of three bad waves and it feels like you are stopping when they hit, so it will be a championship for the helmers. They’re not that huge, but certainly difficult and a bit nasty, especially on port tack as we head back out to sea’, said McNeill.

Overall winners Graeme Taylor, Noel Drennan and Ben Morrison-Jack (Steve Jarvin absent) with Paul Woodman looking on in awe. - Entire 2013 Etchells Victorian Championship

Another owner of a bullet is David Clark, the Australian Vice-President, International Governor and 2012 Australian Champion. He said, ‘Happy to be just chipping away – new boat and same team as 2012 when we won the Nationals at Pittwater. Andrew Smith is back on the main and former Olympian (Soling), Alan Smith is up the bow (no relation, BTW).’

‘It’s business as usual for us. We’ll keep on doing what we have been up to now and look at the scorecard soon enough. It’s great fun to mixing it with all those in the top ten, and the racing is really close!’

David Clark (876) taking on Matthew Chew (864) on day one of 2013 Mooloolaba Etchells Winters

The offshore course allows for some spectacular viewing, whether you’re on the water or atop one of the many towers that adorn this part of the coast. The weather has smiled too and Hughie has allowed for gentle to fresh breezes to power this fleet of sailing’s best to haggle it out amongst themselves out on the track.

If it is a fleet of 70 or even just 30, you can be sure that in the Etchells you will need your sunglasses. Bling is everywhere, just like a trip to Las Vegas. So no matter who gets his years National title, the Etchells Class is certainly the winner. See http://www.etchells.org.au/ for more information.

John Bertrand reflects on racing prior to a start on Port Phillip

Rob Hanna on the tiller of his Shogun V. - TP52 Southern Cross Cup
John Curnow ©