by John Curnow
Dovetailing in nicely from the recent Etchells Australian Championship in Perth come firstly the NSW and then Victorian State titles. Michael Manford, Dean McAullay and Nicholas Gray won the national title in one of the first Etchells to come out of the new mould that the Australian Association and builder, Phil Smidmore, have developed.
Burke Melia from the Cronulla Sailing Club in, No mercy (AUS943). - Etchells NSW Championship
As always, the very friendly, on-water rivalry that forms the backbone of Etchells racing around the globe was evident. One special aspect of this is the verbal jousting that runs from one end of the Hume Highway to the other. A lot of the crews make the journey at various times between Australia’s two big cities and it is tough for both sailors and tow vehicles alike.
One such example is Etchells Class President and Governor, Jake Gunther, who said, 'Heading North for the 2013 NSW Etchells State Championships being held in Cronulla this year will be really beneficial to our Victorian State Championships, which are on the following weekend. It would be really great to pick up the NSW title, after sailing offshore of Cronulla from 1-3 March, and then back it up with an inshore win off Brighton in Melbourne from 9-11 March.'
'Yes it takes a lot of planning and driving, but mixing it up with old pals and new rivals, in different locations makes for some of the best sailing you can have. Add in the Etchells strict one design elements and it makes for great fun', said Jake.
In addition to Jake being amongst the 37-boat fleet at the Cronulla Sailing Club, look out for names like David Clark, Peter McNeill, Graeme Taylor, Matt Chew and Richie Allanson. All these sailors know a thing or two about winning an event, whether it be in Etchells or other classes. Richie Allanson from North Sails has as crew, Colin Beashel and Peter ‘Billy’ Merrington, so they will certainly be there or thereabouts. Allanson commented, 'It should be a good regatta and certainly fun to be there with your friends. Etchells always attract loads of good sailors, which just further highlights the importance of the class.'
Cronulla Etchells Fleet Captain, Stephen O’Rourke said, 'We’re really keen to see all the crews arrive this weekend. Hopefully, the dramatic weather of late will die down and we’ll be back to that champagne sailing we’re famous for. The Cronulla Sailing Club will turn on all the hospitality and the offshore course is truly magnificent. Naturally, it remains to be seen, just who from the wonderful list of entries will take away the gold. See you at our idyllic location this weekend.'
PRO comment Andrew McLachlan, 'The weather is not looking terribly friendly at the moment, but we’ll see how we go. It’s a long way out just now, so hoping the forecast shifts a little bit and the swell doesn’t mount up too far. A big fleet, so we aim to get as much racing as can be achieved. Four races will comprise a series and we have got three days to get them in. The maximum of eight could be a stretch, if the current scenario pans out. Between the rain and the waves, we could have some wet sailors. The club has certainly done a lot of work in readiness.'
David Clark is one person who will return the favour one week later and head to the renowned waters of Port Phillip for the 2013 Entire Etchells Victorian State Championship. Although the fleet is a little smaller in size, also attending this regatta are sailors like Peter Coleman, who won the recent Etchells regatta at Metung in Gippsland, a certain John Bertrand and also Ross Lloyd with his vessel, The Doctor.
Also popping up on the register for this regatta are the crew of Barry, who have had a little break of late, but are a serious contender for outright honours where and whenever they appear and usually take the Corinthian title away, no matter what. Another four-up crew racing off Brighton will be Brendon Jukes and co on board, the Jukes of Hazzard.
Looking even further ahead, at the same time as the 2013 Etchells World Championship in Italy this June, there is the Australasian Winter Championship in Mooloolaba. Then in November 2013, the 2014 Australian National Championship will be staged on the Gold Coast.
John ‘JB’ Bertrand is appearing at the latter event with Grant Simmer, whom he has known since the Australia II days and Andrew ‘Dog’ Palfrey. This crew placed second in 2013 Nationals and a Black Flag (disqualified from a particular race for breaking the start) is certain to still be on their minds. Of course, JB and Dog also won the 2010 Etchells Worlds in Ireland, that time with Tom Slingsby on board.
John said he's looking forward to the Gold Coast nationals, racing with good mates. 'The America’s Cup will be over by then. Grant is currently CEO of the US Defender, Oracle Racing, and Andrew is the Head Coach of Swedish Challenger, Artemis. However they both love racing Etchells on Triad, we have a terrific time together. Etchells is pure one design racing at its best. It will be great.'
The NSW Etchells State Championship is being staged from the Cronulla Sailing Club from March 1 to 3 inclusive. The Entire Victorian Etchells State Championship is to be conducted from the Royal Brighton Yacht Club from March 9 to 11, inclusive. See Etchells.org.au, cronullasc.com and rbyc.org.au for more information.