Sailing at the 2012 Etchells World Championships there are two U.S. World Champion skippers, Jud Smith (2006) and Vince Brun (2000) and both are looking for their second World Championship crown. Three Australian skippers John Bertrand (2010), Peter McNeil (2004) and Cameron Miles (1999) are also looking for a repeat championship.
Jud Smith and crew on Feng Shui - Audi Etchells Worlds 2006
Of these Etchells World Champions, Jud Smith has the most consistent record, seven times on the podium, with 2006 in Fremantle, Western Australia the highlight when the Marblehead Mass. sailor beat New Zealand’s Alastair Gair and Great Britain’s Ante Razmilovic in typically heavy 'Fremantle Doctor' breezes.
Born into a sailing family, Jud won his first Etchells title, the New England Championship, in 1987 and won his first North American title in 1990. He has done that five times since. He has also won an IOD World Championship and two Mumm 30 World Championships.
Jud, the mainsail trimmer on Stars and Stripes during Dennis Conner's 1995 America's Cup campaign, has been a sail maker for almost 30 years and is a Doyle Sails one design sail specialist.
Looking at consistency over the last decade on the Etchells circuit, no one gets near him.
Sail-World asked him the secret …
‘It’s hard to travel overseas and be competitive. It is always challenging, a lot of different dynamics. I’ve managed to do that over time. It’s a big commitment. You can get into different boats, different crews, different conditions, everything ... it’s hard, lots of adjustments to make.
‘But the conditions we had in Fremantle and hopefully we will get here (Sydney) are my favourite.
‘Frankly I would prefer 15 or 25 knots everyday and plenty of this rolling offshore stuff ... that's my best conditions. I am 55 and I am a better heavy air sailor than I am a light air sailor.
‘I think the boat speed differentials change quickly so then it’s only ten boats and really there is only five of those ten. There are only five boats that are really competitive. It makes for a very easy race because now you are only sailing against just the 'best of the best' in breeze.
‘In light weather the corners pay more. It’s tough, it’s hard to read and it’s very variable. Boat speed is not a big factor. It’s just tough getting off a line and it doesn’t matter where you are in the fleet or how. Any of those guys are competitive if they go the right way, so it's much harder to get a points break.'
For the Sydney Etchells Worlds, Jud has once again teamed up with Sydney Fleet Etchells sailors Mark Johnson and Nik Burfoot.
Together they won the 2008 Etchells North American Championship sailed on The Chesapeake, off Annapolis. Their victory was aboard a new boat, Roulette, representing the Sydney Fleet and the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron. In that boat they sailed the Melbourne Worlds in 2009 and came fifth and now the same crew will be sailing the same boat at the Sydney Worlds.
‘I feel if we don’t put good commitment into a World’s campaign there is no point in coming. I have just been doing the Miami Circuit and that's really competitive too. It’s a fleet of about this size sailing four to five times in winter, so that keeps us sharp.
‘This is shaping up as a pretty wide open regatta. There are more than ten or more boats that can pull it off.
‘Obviously 'Nitro' (Noel) Drennan having come second behind Bill Hardesty in the last Worlds is in great shape. John Bertrand would be one of the top boats without a doubt and Dave Clark is clearly going well. Gair, Ante Razmilovic – the list goes on.
‘Vince Brun with Michael Coxon you’d expect to see up there. It's a big commitment for them too and it looks like they have put a lot of effort into that boat and they are sailing well.
‘I am glad we sailed the NSW Titles on the Manly circle course before Christmas. We sorted out our life jackets and masts and most importantly, it was about getting comfortable with the place. I was amazed at just how much current there is and just getting used to that has been worthwhile.
‘We’ve put the most work into jibs and we have a new heavy jib and we are happy with that. We are pretty sorted in the 'up rangey' end of things.
‘We are trying to pick between a couple of mains we might use; it depends on the wind and sea state. Spinnakers are probably the biggest area we are trying to home in on, what we will use on the Harbour. It could be a lot lighter than we are expecting, so probably picking chutes for us is our biggest question mark.
'But we are here and we are ready to go!’
The 38th Etchells World Championship will be sailed off Sydney Heads, with the first race to be sailed on Monday 20th February. Nine races are scheduled, with six making a one drop series.
Sail-World will be dockside and on the course, as you’d expect.
Jud Smith ‘s Etchells record
1986 — Toronto, Canada-(33) second
1994 — Balboa, CA USA-(61) second
1996 — Cowes, England-(64) second
2003 --Greenwich, CT USA-(93) second
2006 - Fremantle, WA, AUS (69) won
2007 – Cowes, England (45) second
2008 – Chicago, Illinois, USA (83) third