At the Etchells National Championship, a short break in the Black Jack big boat program is affording Mark Bradford the chance to slip down to Queensland’s Gold Coast to compete next week.
Noel Drennan on the helm at the 2012 Etchells Worlds with crew Anthony Nossiter and Will McCarthy.
Some of his fellow Etchells competitors consider Bradford will be the dark horse to watch during the championship. He has recruited to his team two of his long-standing sailing mates - Olympic and America’s Cup level sailors Anthony Nossiter and Will McCarthy. Both have sailed with Bradford on his big boat campaigns; on Loyal when it won the 2011 Sydney Hobart Race and again in that race last year aboard the Reichel Pugh 66 Black Jack.
Nossiter and McCarthy raced with Noel Drennan in both the 2011 Etchells World Championship in San Diego where they finished second and in the 2012 worlds in Sydney where they finished eighth.
Bradford steered his own boat in the 2009 Etchells World Championship in Melbourne and crewed for in the 2012 worlds. He then went on to concentrate his one-design energies on the Star class, competing in the World Championship in Perth in 2012.
So the three sailors have spent quality time in the Etchells class, but not together. Bradford doesn’t seemed fazed by this situation. In fact he argues he has no expectations for a top end result at this year’s nationals. 'This is about sailing with my friends. Many of them are elite guys that don’t get a lot of time to sail. It’s certainly not a Matthew Chew style campaign. He’s just focused on the class. I have sailed every weekend for the last 10 weekends. I did the Farr 40s two weeks ago with Guido. The weekend before that we did Black Jack and then the weekend before that again was the Etchells States.
Mark Bradford (left) with Sir Jack Brabham at the launching of the Black Jack RP66.
'We’re just making up the numbers. For me to give you an expectation of a (finishing place) number would be unrealistic. It will be guys that are doing this full time. There are guys out there that are doing this, not at the Olympic level commitment, but not far off it.
Bradford bought his Etchells only two months ago. Since then he has been working on it and on 'getting my head around the boat again'.
Between racing with the Farr40s and on Black Jack there has been little time to organise his team’s training program. 'Tom King came and sailed with me at the Queensland states and Simon Cunnington and Owen McMahon, who are both good Etchells sailors, have sailed with me.
'The crew were up last week for training. We are then going to the event on Friday so we can get three days in there. That will make five days before the event for us to get our stuff sorted. We have seen the movie before, we have done it all before, it’s just whether we can make it click on the day.'
Bradford will be competing in a 31-boat fleet, rated as one of the highest quality seen at a National Championship in quite some time. He will have skippers Noel Drennan, John Bertrand, David Clark, Chris Hampton, Cameron Miles, Peter McNeill, Matthew Chew and more, all keeping him and each other honest and challenged on the offshore course.
Even with all the big boat sailing distractions that have come his way in recent months, his team still can’t be quickly discounted from the top contenders. 'I know how to time my run and if everything clicks, we will be competitive.
'Anyone that sits around saying they are going to win this type of thing, well, you know how it goes. You turn up thinking you are going to win and you end up 12th. You turn up thinking you are going to finish 15th and then you win.'
The eight-race National Championship starts on Tuesday 12th November and goes through to Saturday 16th November
For more event information, go South Port Yacht Club Website