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Festival of Sails 2017

The OD gets set for the Garmin 2014 Etchells NSW Championship

by John Curnow on 22 Jan 2014
Part of the fleet coming back downwind on the picturesque Brisbane Waters. - NSW Etchells Championship Kylie Wilson Positive Image - copyright http://www.positiveimage.com.au/etchells
At a time when many a class would be lucky to have 20 entries for an Australian Championship, the Etchells already have that number for their next event. Yes, the Etchells once again prove that they are THE One Design keelboat. To be sailed out of the charming Gosford Sailing Club on Brisbane Waters, the Garmin 2014 Etchells NSW Championship will once more provide for close racing and a plethora of sailing talent to be on display.

The Notice of Race is available from http://www.etchells.org.au/gosford/states/ and Garmin have put a few of their ‘Quatix’ watches up as an added incentive, so as to ensure crews go even harder for the win. This is bound to see even more pressure inside the top ten as they round the marks.

Peter Walsh, the Sailing and Marina Manager at GSC, is also the PRO. 'We are looking forward to it all. The whole club is set and ready to fire, so bring it on! There are to be eight races from February 13 to 16, with a minimum of three to be completed as a requirement for a series and six before a drop is allowed.'


Don Wilson, who is the regatta chairman, will be out there racing, as too is another local, the young gun, Luke Birch with Michael Law and Roy Leslie. They may not be quite as young, but they’re certainly guns aboard, Predator. Kieran Humphries, Brent Connor and Neil McDonald have been taking the glassware after the local Saturday races of late and they are keen to get more of that style of action.

Other participants that are part of the early bird contingent are Western Australia’s Raymond Smith, with Simon Cunningham and Brett Shoebridge. Thus far there is one female driver, Jill Connell, and she is a relative newbie to ownership at that. Jill has Learne Dooley sailing with her aboard, Odyssey.

'It is a fitting name for our journey, as we aim to get ourselves even more competitive in the next while. We have been sailing sprints of late and really looking forward to this as our first championship', said Connell.


A former Rear Commodore (Membership) and one time Director of the Board at Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club, she has been sailing on sailing on a variety of production boats out of Alfred’s. Jill also has a Hood Halvorsen that she uses for some single-handed adventures when the water office requires her immediate attention! Learne is a very experienced Sydney 38 and Farr40 sailor.

'I bought a good Etchells in Odyssey. This is a great step up to skippering, in terms of racing, and the Pittwater Fleet has been truly marvellous and very welcoming. Peter (Billy) Merrington has been coaching us. I'm so appreciative of Pete's guidance on our journey, as we learn how to race Odyssey more competitively. We're very fortunate that such a brilliant sailor and nice guy is helping us. It's very evident that the class helps the class, which is another a fabulous aspect of sailing Etchells.

'I’ve always had an interest in one design and loved the Etchells. They sail so well. We used the trial vessel that the Pittwater Fleet have on offer last summer and got addicted there. Once we were out in 30 knots and delighted with the way it sailed in both light and heavy airs. Accordingly, if you’re going to take the plunge, then you have to go for the best on offer.'

'Don’t know quite yet who’s going to be on the pointy the end. We’re keen to see who’s out there and for sure we are looking for skill, but we also have that very useful item to offer as a reward, a significant weight allowance to hand the lucky sailor', said Connell. Interested sailors can make contact through Alfred’s.


Now the 2012 World Champions from Sydney are also starters, namely Tom King, David Edwards, Ivan Wheen and Owen McMahon. 'We are working towards the Worlds in Newport later this year and have started to try and get ourselves into some sort of respectable form. Thankfully, the team at North Sails is helping us with that.'

'Brisbane Waters is always a testing place to sail, but Gosford Sailing Club always put on a good show and we are looking forward to some close racing in a few weeks’ time, said David Edwards.

Also present will be last year’s NSW Champions in Doug McGain, Gary Adshead and Michael O’Brien, as well as previous Australian Champion in WA’s, Dirk van der Struyf, who’ll be sailing with Mark Langford and a certain Australia II member, the very affable Phil Smidmore.

Of course it is not all about the top. Tight racing is always guaranteed in Etchells from first to last. North Sails are back as a sponsor once again and will award the ubiquitous jib as the mid fleet prize. 'I have really enjoyed getting back into regular club racing to complement our regatta sailing, and actively working on our latest radial sail developments with Noel Drennan from our Melbourne Loft and Richie Alanson here in Sydney. It’s great that the class is still so strong and we enjoy supporting the fleet', said Michael Coxon, who together with Alanson and Andrew Gavenlock, North’s Production Manager and esteemed Finn sailor, will compete in the regatta on North Star. Look out for them to make the usual impact.


Etchells Governor, David Clark, is a starter with a new four-up crew aboard Fifteen, so look out for them to make a mark on the podium. 'We’re always delighted with the turnout for the NSW Championship, as Queensland and Victoria are always represented, so it is truly awesome to see WA showing up this time. Last year we had just under 40 entries and I really do feel that we may just get over that again, especially as the Milson Goblets will be finished just before hand, so a lot of craft will be able to simply trundle up the F3 to get to Gosford.'

'As always, there is many a name to look out for, but you can be sure that whether your first at the top mark or somewhere else, it will be exceptionally tight racing on the water, with great camaraderie ashore.'

'Our class has three main pillars. First there is top level Race Management and in addition to Peter and his team, we have Steve Hatch as the head of the jury. Next is a terrific venue, which Gosford is and the flat water along with challenging breezes lends itself to all getting involved. Finally, we have lots of lots of racing for intensity, so there is tremendous bang for your discretionary, leisure time buck', Clark finished with.

Jake Gunther, Class President, is also going to be there with John Cuthbert Collingwood and Stuart Skeggs on, The Boat. 'I must say I’m pretty excited about Gosford! Sounds a little strange, but I’m pretty sure 45 Etchells will make it a very exciting place to be for that second weekend in February. I’ve sailed there many times and always enjoyed the racing and the town. I’m certain that it will be a fantastic regatta, as the Nationals were already sailed in November and so most teams are itching for another hit out. Given that we didn’t have traditional Australian Championships over the Xmas break, it is going to be a well-attended event with all the usual suspects and a few more!'


'Brisbane Waters is where David Slingsby taught his son Tom to sail, so it is always going to be a place where lots of things happen. Great sailors come form great racing waters… and let’s face it, Tom is definitely one of the ‘Greats’.'
'Speaking of greats, another Tom (Tom King) will be out there too as his crew ready themselves for the World Championships in Newport, which will be conducted later this year. That will be some mountain to climb, as they are talking about 100 boats!'

So top to bottom it is already full of great names and stories and about the only thing that can put a cap on that is the maximum number of entries, which is strictly limited to 45. If you’re thinking about it, now could well be the time to avoid the usual last minute rush and get in to avoid potential disappointment. See http://www.etchells.org.au/gosford/states/ for all details and online entry.

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