by John Curnow
Some have said that they find Etchells more than a tad underwhelming. True, Skip Etchells’ design is more than 40 years old, they have aluminium masts, Dacron sails and fractional, symmetrical spinnakers. That’s hardly the coolest stuff going around. However, when you have a different winner for nearly every race, the sport’s greatest coming back, and then back again to sail them, and that they are always closely fought contests, then you have to ponder why that might be so.
Triad took the championship. - 2014 Etchells Victorian Championship
Yacht racing can be hard to watch, especially for the uninitiated, and there is always one place better to be than looking at them – on board and actually doing it. Alas that is exactly the sentiment of one of sailing’s living legends, John Bertrand, AM. Together with Jake Newman and Billy Browne he claimed another title today. Of course he is an acknowledged master of the true, never-say-die competitive attitude and 1983 will always live on for typifying such determination.
So where would you rather be? - 2014 Etchells Victorian Championship
Now it was not all to be champagne sailing for Triad (Bertrand’s boat), for they have won the 2014 Etchells Victorian Championship on count back from the previous champion, Magpie, which is helmed by Graeme Taylor, with Steve Jarvin and James Mayo crewing. That both of these crews were just one point clear of Mark Bulka, Steve Young and Stewart Nichols on, Balance, is more than worth a mention, for it too is a graphic demonstration of how tough it is to be the best in Etchells and that one place in any race can make all the difference to how the medals are handed out, come time to stand atop the podium.
Bertrand commented after racing, 'Lovely preparation for Newport, so I’m certainly keen to get there now. Just have to wait for June, I guess. Yesterday and the OCS were a bit disappointing, but it all goes to show that you just simply have got to retain your rhythm. Today we had to fight hard during the first race, then had a better second race. A wind shift handed a lot of the fleet a huge bonus, one of which was Magpie, so it was game on from there. Jake (Newman) and Billy (Browne) sailed superbly. What a great effort.'
'Mark Bulka and the crew on Balance had a great regatta. To be sailing again with your mates must have been special and I do look forward to being on the water again with Grant Simmer and Andrew Palfrey off Rhode Island. I have already had emails from both of them and they too extremely fired up for Newport. Grant is till thinking Etchells, even though has so much on with America’s Cup. It shows the strength of One Design, but especially the Etchells', said Bertrand.
Start - 2014 Rolex China Sea Race
He may well have been a little disappointed, after all who likes being second, but Graeme Taylor from Magpie was certainly still smiling. 'A good regatta and a tough old day today, but plenty of fun to be had. We just could not get there in the end. We got in front of Triad (Bertrand and Co) in last race, but could not put another boat into the gap to gain the overall lead. At any rate, if we’re playing the game on the last day or even the last race then we’ll always be happy.'
Taylor added, 'It was very flat water today, the boat motored along and getting those tiny little edges of boat speed over the others was even more challenging. The locals (White Pointer) were getting plenty of the cheers as they went around the top mark, well and truly in the money. It’s always terrific to sail with Steve Jarvin and it was a delight to have James Mayo on board. He brought a lot to the table. He sees the wind well, especially downhill. He may well have re-lit the fire for himself and we’ll be more than happy to see on board Magpie again!'
Now in fourth place of the final standings are David Clark, Alice McClure, Will Northam and Sean O’Rourke on, Fifteen+. On day one you would have been lucky to find Clark around the Metung Yacht Club after racing had concluded, let alone got a comment from him. Yet such is the nature of Etchells that if you chip away and always remember the goal, then results do occur and they are not necessarily surprising, but rather more behoving. Now quite possibly no one knows mores about campaigning heavily and enthusiastically than Etchells Class President, Jake Gunther. The Boat, with John Collingwood and Stuart Skeggs crewing, finished the championship in fifth place, just one point astern of Fifteen+.
Local favourites – White Pointer. - 2014 Etchells Victorian Championship
Of the day itself, mentions have to go to Allan Sandy, Damien Daniel and Peter Wilkinson, one of the local Metung crew competing on, White Pointer. In Race Five, the first today, the collected a very notable second place. 'Get it in the right spot, point in the right direction and look what happens! We had good day and finally went left instead of right. Yee haa. The plan works. On board I am not allowed to look backwards, but it was nice to hear the bulk of the fleet behind us. We’re all very happy on White Pointer, especially as we have an old boat, so it proves it is a case of being in there and trying, trying, trying. A great regatta, and to get 29 boats here at Metung is an absolute delight', said Sandy.
Putting yesterday’s issues behind them were the Jukes of Hazzard, Brendon and Brian Jukes, with Matthias Houvenagel and Nigel Jones, who crossed the line in third place for that race.
Winning the final race, and with their own amount of serious sailing talent on board, was No Star. Michael Coxon, Richie Allanson and Andrew Gavenlock finished in sixth place overall for the regatta, with a collection of top ten places from the six-race series, once you account for the drop. In their case this was a 20th place. Alas, once more you see how hard it is to be in the silverware, even when you are an undisputed master.
Well they do not call it champagne sailing for nothing. - 2014 Etchells Victorian Championship
Coxon commented, 'Very hospitable people and lovely location, so we have had a good time. The racetrack is a bit one sided as such, so you do need to be brave and go for the start, especially at the pin end, which we did today and got the win. Well done to those at the top, who really plugged away and collected an even set of results. Cream rises to the top, once again.'
As the Managing Director of North Sails, Coxon and the team were there to assist their clients, 'We serviced a couple of sails for some of the crews, as well as from other lofts. Naturally we are delighted to have our product well and truly represented right throughout the fleet, together with those standing atop the podium.'
Deborah Lloyd, the Race Officer for the series said, 'Today was a matter of being patient to allow the wind to arrive and as expected, there it was. We got the full compliment in with our two races today taking us out to six, overall. There was a Northerly present this morning, but we went into the Answering Pennant from 1055 until 1319hrs, so it was a long hot wait for the crews, but worthwhile to get the full programme in. Well done to the entire race management team for all their efforts during the regatta.'
'090˚ was set, which went to 105˚ for the second work. The second race got away to 105˚ and then wouldn’t you know it, we were back to 090˚ with a change of course. 7-13knots was seen for the entire afternoon. We had a range to the top mark of 1.2nm, with an elapsed time of 60 or so minutes for the leaders. Once again we used a 400m long start line.'
The newest Etchells crew on the water – Lethal Weapon. - 2014 Etchells Victorian Championship
Sarah Clough was helming Lethal Weapon for the series. The all female crew gained a lot from their time on and off the water. 'We had a great regatta with stunning weather and the perfect amount of breeze. Such a long day today with the wait, it was very hot and we needed lots of water and big hats, that’s for sure.'
'Wow we learned a lot and to see, as well as be amongst this sort of group is something else. We’ll probably talk about it for a while and no doubt put to good use all the new skills we’ve developed over the series.'
'Jade Evison-Rose and Jacqui Loft were brilliant and we’ve worked so well together, so look out for us at an Etchells regatta very soon. Apart from learning, we have had a lot of fun and built good friendships. A big thank you to the Metung YC for holding such a memorable regatta, which of course means so many, wonderful volunteers chipped in to make it all happen. Finally, cheers to Jim Hall for the use of his boat', said Clough.
The 2014 Etchells Victorian Championship provided for lots of close racing, with a plethora of sailing talent on display. Next up it’s off to Perth and the WA Championship, so get set for more hot Etchells action coming your way from the big State. See http://www.etchells.org.au for all the details.