by Bernie Kaaks
The Prochoice Etchells National Championships 2013 provided less physical sailing conditions but the strong breeze off the shore really tested the patience and skills of the crews on the final day of racing.
Michael Manford - 24 years between drinks! - Prochoice Safety Gear Etchells Nationals
Michael Manford did what he had to do on the final day of the Prochoice Etchells National Championships held at Fremantle this week. In flat water and a wind direction of 120 degrees, competitors enjoyed less physical conditions, but the breeze off the land generated far more shifts than the south westerlies of the previous three days.
Going into the race with a buffer of six points over his nearest rival, Americas Cup hero John Bertrand, Manford knew that provided he kept in touch, he only had to follow Bertrand around the course and ensure that as few as possible managed to place between the two of them.
Peter Chappell obliged by sailing away to an early lead, and once having established it, hung on doggedly to deny John Bertrand, who trailed him closely all the way, to win the final heat. Victorian Jake Gunther was next, giving Michael Manford fourth place and the National Title. It’s been a long time between drinks for the West Australian skipper - he last won the title in 1988/89.
Manford’s crewman Dean McAullay (a world champion in Flying Fifteens) said after the race that there was no attempt by any of the points score leaders to match race. 'You can’t take risks in an easterly', he said. 'We all worked hard for a good start and from then on were mindful of the need to avoid the possibility of a bunch of boats placing between John (Bertrand) and our boat.'
The order at the end of the first lap was in fact, the finishing order. 'We got up to third at one time, but Jake (Gunther) managed to get ahead of us.'
Torvar Mirsky, who was only a point adrift of Bertrand before the last race, had to be satisfied with a ninth place today, a score he had to include in his total thanks to his black flag disqualification in race three. However the result left him in third place overall, a very creditable effort for someone who does not race regularly in this class.
Mark Thornburrow, who travelled from Hong Kong to compete, scored two wins in the eight race series, but had some horror starts, resulting in two black flag disqualifications.
The four day regatta could not have been more different from the Syd Corser Regatta that preceded it. The first regatta lost a day’s racing due to a lack of breeze and the remainder was very light. The Nationals started in stiff south westerlies which tested both crews and their boats. With the exception of today’s final race, they were conducted in winds ranging from 14 knots right up to the class limit of 25 knots.
Run by Royal Perth Yacht Club in conjunction with Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club, the Prochoice Safety Gear Etchells Nationals had everything – exciting heavy air sailing, close results and even the sinking of one of the competitors after a wild broach snapped the spinnaker pole which pulled the boat down.
1st the Croc 17 points Michael Manford/Dean McAullay/Nicholas Gray
2nd Triad (Vic) 21 points John Bertrand/Andrew Palfrey/Grant Simmer
3rd Chilli Plum 29 points Torvar Mirsky/Steve Thomas/Nick Davis/Justin Wong
4th Gen XY (Qld) 30 points Matthew Chew/Brian Donnovan/Bill Cuneo/Ashley Deeks
5th No Jacket Required (Vic) 45 points Noel Drennan/Peter Ahern/Bill Browne
6th 1382 (WA) 47 points Peter Chappell/Luke Payne/David Castles
Full results here