The 2013 Etchells NSW State Championship at Cronulla could be remembered for the rain and the waves. As time goes on, it is far more likely to be viewed more fondly, with sun, spinnakers in assorted colours and the overall friendly and competitive ambience that is Etchells being talked about at yacht clubs around the country.
As Sunday dawned, you could finally say there had been an improvement. It wasn’t raining! It was still blowing and there were still waves pounding into the beach with a fair degree of venom. The day before, Race Management had said they were going to go racing at 1000hrs and they were as good as their word, with the first race commencing at 10 after the hour. The day’s following races would begin at about ten after each subsequent hour, as well.
Sunny patches added much cheer, but there was still over 20 knots coming through from the East Sou’east. Out on the track, the axis was first set to 120 degrees at 1.1nm and would later move left to 110 at 1.3nm. There were gusts into the mid 20’s and would fall to the low teens by the time the fourth race of the day was done. Even the waves took a bit of their anger away as the morning gave way to the afternoon. Early on they were consistently 3m, with the occasional gem at over 5m rolling past and sometimes breaking at the crest to ensure you knew who was boss out there.
It was certainly a spectacle worthy of Etchells, with the glorious backdrop of Cronulla beach, rocks and Norfolk Pines adding their own element to the start. It was not such a happy time for Graeme Taylor and Sydney Fleet Captain, Richard Hammond, both of whom were On Course Side (OCS) and had to return to go back through the start again, once the fleet had cleared off.
Nice and tight fleet racing is also a feature of Etchells and then all the surfing that occurred was just as marvellous to see as the wonderful shoreline coming to life with the sun finally making a welcome appearance.
A band of boats that form the ‘usual suspects’ in an Etchells regatta would start to gather, as is the case and this time include skippers like Matt Chew, Doug McGain, Graeme ‘GT’ Taylor, David Clark, Cameron Miles, Gary Boyd and Dirk Van Der Struyf. Clark and crew of Mike Hughes and Rob Scrivenor would get the day’s first race. Matt Chew, Ashley Deeks, Brian Donovan and Bill Cuneo took the second, with GT, Noel ‘Nitro’ Drennan and Steve Jarvin claiming the fourth. Kane Sinclair, Michael Bellingham and Steve Carrick on board Resurgent had an absolute blinder to win the second race of the day. Well done.
Retirements would become a feature too and go from five not being involved at the start to over 10 by day’s end. Those sailing back to Sydney first had the challenging task of getting past Cape Solander, but after that would have a speedy run home. Zapper was one of the craft choosing that option.
The local crews kept showing the full armada of sailing skills, with No Mercy today having a Man Overboard situation. He was promptly taken aboard a course vessel and returned to his own craft. Second run of second race had the wind reduce some more, which took the heads of the waves and the breakers from the tops.
Getting away cleanly and taking the second start was The Hole Way, with Cameron Miles, Grant Crowle and David Sampson jumping away to a good lead. One of the first, Phil Smidmore built craft from the new Australian Moulds was a part of the clan at this point. It was Richard Hammond’s, Alchemist. Ciao was also a part of the leading pack, in a race that Doug McGain, Michael O’Brien and Gary Adshead would go on to claim a second place. Clean was of course more than appropriate given the amount of water that was sweeping across everyone’s decks.
Conditions continued to prove what a great spectacle the Etchells are and the images are testimony to that. All the dynamism and sailing prowess that is referred to with this premier of one-design classes is evident when the conditions get towards the top end of operating ranges. There really is something about the colour and majesty of Etchells, with colour not only describing the spinnakers, but also the flavour of the truly competitive sailing amongst a high-quality fleet.
On the second work of third race, the sun really appeared and we had something more like 15-18knots around. The fourth race was a clean start and now 14knots seemed to be more appropriate. Taylor and crew lead to the first mark, with Cameron Miles and crew in second and Matthew Chew’s crew going in for third. Eventual overall placegetters, David Clark’s ‘Fifteen’ was fourth and Doug McGain’s ‘Ciao’ was in sixth.
It would not be Etchells regatta without a jumped start, General Recall and Black Flag, but this was not the case today, just the Individual Recall for Taylor and Hammond. That OCS would go on to hurt Taylor’s ‘Magpie’ overall, but they got the race win over Chew and McGain in third.
Once ashore again, Principal Race Officer, Andrew McLachlan said, 'A little worn out, for sure. It was still a little doubtful at say 0800hrs this morning, but I am really glad we persevered and got all four races in that we started. Great work by my team, so thanks to them and I hope everyone had fun out there.'
The overall winner was to be, Ciao - Doug McGain, Michael O’Brien and Gary Adshead. Doug commented, 'A good day and we have enjoyed it and been consistent, so that is always a good feeling to have. Bit of club racing now and then we’ll have a break. The Gold Coast in November for the Etchells Australian Championship is a good possibility and also the mid-winters in Mooloolaba. That could be a plan. It really was a great effort by the club and all the volunteers. Many thanks to them and our fellow competitors.'
Matt Chew, Ashley Deeks, Brian Donovan and Bill Cuneo on Gen XY took second. Matt said, 'Got the magic bullet (first place) in that third race and we were tenth on the first beat of that race, so it was good to do well. Some of us were really close all the way and we just never gave up. Had some good air over left and stayed in phase with the breeze, which meant we could really make some gains. Very happy.'
'The seaway was a little confused early on and flattened out some as the day grew and breeze dropped. Yesterday was certainly close to the limit, whereas today was certainly really steep, but more sailable and not breaking as much. Going downwind, Brian told me not to look back, so they must have been pretty big. We surfed a couple and they were very fast. We inverted the spinnaker with it pushing back on to the spreaders, but our team certainly worked hard and well to keep it tidy.'
'I love Etchells, just look at the people here. They sail all the big boats and it is great to race them in a one-design fleet. It is always tough and competitive, but you get to do it in Etchells with a smile. Great stuff.'
In third place were David Clark, Mike Hughes and Rob Scrivenor on Fifteen. Clark said, 'Tough going, but really enjoyed the racing. Great pressure and pretty steady breeze, but we just felt a little out of phase with it all, so tactically not one of our best. Good starts and uphill pace to keep us in the chocolates. Terrific race track and thanks to Powerade for making it a little less painful.'
Taylor, Drennan and Jarvin on Magpie were impressive for speed and nearly got on to the podium. Taylor commented, 'Going really well, the OCS is just that, so no problem and we were getting quicker as the day wore on. A good set of training races for the Worlds in Rosignano, Italy, in June. We’re off to the Victorian State Championship at Brighton next weekend, where we’ll get to continue developing, sailing against the likes of former World Champion, John Bertrand, as well as the guys from, Barry – Damien King, Tom King, Mark Bradford and Simon Cunnington.'
The Masters champion from the 2013 Etchells NSW State Championship was Doug Flynn, who finished ninth overall with his crew of Chester Maudslay and Alex Flynn on Wobbegong. The Grand Master was local favourite, David McKay, who’s Pork Ye Pig was crewed by Tim MacGillivray and Stephen Jones.
Courtesy of so many great sponsors being involved, there were terrific prizes to be won for not only placegetters, but also raffles and draws. Sailing identity, Roger Hickman, took home a new Nautica watch, as did local sailor, Jon Harris. The crowd were quick to ask if the Nautica watch also had a depth sounder, after their grounding yesterday. Mike Tyquin’s Shindig received another coveted prize, when they took home the new North Sails LMH jib.
Many thanks to all the volunteers from the Cronulla Sailing Club and the sponsors, Nautica, Tooheys, Powerade and North Sails. Our appreciation also goes to Reg Dolden for providing his glorious Halvorsen as a viewing platform and Gary ‘Bags’ Ball for driving, Suzanne 1. See etchells.org.au for more information or to begin your own Etchells journey.