The Etchells Invitational Cup’s final day delivered more stunning, high adrenaline and incredibly close racing, with the three leading boats all in contention for the 140-year-old Gertrude Cup at the start of the final race.
Jeremy Thorp of Antigua YC won the inaugural Etchells Invitational Cup after a challenging day of racing
Jeremy Thorp of Antigua YC led the fleet on 26 points, with Shannon Bush of New York YC on 34, and Jeanne-Claude Strong of Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron on 36. However, Thorp’s commanding lead quickly evaporated in the deciding race – he was sixth round the first windward mark, then dropped the overall leader’s red spinnaker in the water at the spreader mark, dragging it behind the boat.
By this time Strong was well ahead in second place, just behind race leader Marvin Beckmann of Houston YC. Thorp never recovered beyond eighth place, but with Bush and Strong finishing fourth and fifth respectively, the Antiguan team’s overall victory was sealed.
'It was my first time racing an Etchells,' said Thorp, '…and they absolutely live up to everything my really successful sailing friends have told me. They are pure and beautiful boats to sail, with excellent competition in the fleet.'
Bush held on to second place overall, having scored a consistent run of seven top-four results, but was also forced to count two 11th places. While the top four teams struggled to some extent on the final day, Beckmann, the 2013 Etchells World Champion, revelled in the slightly stronger winds to win both races, to add to two earlier race wins. 'We struggled in the lighter winds earlier in the week,' said crewmember Andrew Palfrey, himself a former Etchells world champion, Olympian and America’s Cup sailor. '…but it was really satisfying to win the last three races when there was more breeze.'
Beckmann’s top results at the end of the regatta lifted him into third place overall, tied on 41 points with Strong, but with his four wins giving him the advantage on count back.
The UK Etchells class has an enviable reputation for enabling youth teams to compete at the highest level, with 90 of the UK’s best young sailors having sailed in the fleet over the past three seasons. Much of the credit for this goes to Ted Fort OBE, a member of the Cowes fleet for 30 years, who has funded two of the class’s four boats for young sailors.
'I’ve got so much out of sailing throughout my life,' he says, '…especially courage and ambition. Besides, when you’re in business you have to think about the start line… I believe the future of the class here in Cowes is in youth sailors.'
Of the four youth teams competing, the Spinnaker Lake Sailing Club team of Matt Reid, Ashley Goddard, Martin Evans, and Emily Wiltshire had the best result, finishing eighth overall, including two podium positions, one of which was an impressive second place in the final race.
Annabel Vose, Amy Prime, Hannah Peters and Emily Nagel of the Royal Southern YC took ninth overall, just weeks after winning the World Student Match Racing Championship. They finished one point ahead of their rivals from Spinnaker Lake and on equal points with the UKSA/ British Keelboat Academy team, but gained an advantage on count back thanks to two races in which they scored podium finishes.
'It was a big challenge for us,' said Prime, 'as we hadn’t done much Etchells or fleet racing as a team. The racing here is really close and we learned loads – you couldn’t make many mistakes, and if you did you dropped places very quickly. It was also very interesting to swap boats each day and see how each one was set up – and of course it was really good of the owners to lend their boats for the event.'
'This event has been absolutely amazing – the best sailing I’ve done in my life and there were some fantastic sailors out there,' added Charlie Dodd, of the UKSA/ BKA team. 'But it’s not an arms race here – we’re changing boats each day and are all racing with identical sails, so it’s all about your skills and the decisions you make.'
Many thanks go to the event’s sponsors and organisers, which numbered 84 people and organisations. Of particular note are the host clubs, the Royal Thames Yacht Club and Royal London Yacht Club, the race committee led by David Campbell-James, Ron’s team of on water umpires, plus Graham Sunderland (aka Batman) and Kev Downer who provided on water support and kept the boats running throughout the event.
Sponsors whose input was invaluable to the event’s success include Francis Searchlights; Spinlock, who supplied buoyancy aids for all competitors and officials; plus Zhik and Liros ropes. A film about the event is being produced by Olivia Chenevix-Trench of OCT Films and a book will also be available.
The 2015 Etchells Invitational Cup for the Gertrude Cup will be held from Friday July 31 to Wednesday August 5 – again the week before Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week. Anyone interested in applying for an invitation should contact David Franks at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call on +44 7768063868.