Please select your home edition
Edition
Barz Optics - Kids range

A new era for the Etchells class

by Rupert Holmes on 23 Jul 2014
A new Era for the Etchells Class. Rupert Holmes
A winter of development work with some of the world’s top sailors has resulted in significant improvements to the latest Etchells keelboats built by David Heritage Racing Yachts in Cowes, UK. 'What we’ve done here represents the biggest changes in the class over the past 20 years,' says Andrew ‘Dog’ Palfrey, a double Etchells world champion, Star class Olympian for Australia and veteran of two America's Cup campaigns.

David Heritage and Palfrey led the project, which included input from another former world champion and Olympian, Stuart Childerley, as well as top international sailors David Bedford, Graham Bailey, Andy Beadsworth and Graham Sunderland. The process started using an existing boat to trial changes to the deck gear and layout. 'We all went sailing a lot through those cold and dark winter months and refined the changes to the boat until it was perfect,' says Palfrey.

One of the biggest changes is a mast ram system to replace the low-tech system of mast chocks that was previously ubiquitous in the class. The new system gives an infinite level of control at any time, with adjustments easily made while the crew is hiking. It allows an instant change to the mainsail shape without the crew having to stop hiking.

Another important change is the addition of athwartships tracks for the jib cars that provide fine control of the sail’s angle of attack.

These deck gear modifications can be retrofitted to existing boats. The mast ram system, for instance, costs less than a new jib, but will last the life of the boat and contributes to a big gain in extracting maximum speed from the boat and making it simpler and easier to sail well. Other detailed changes that can also be incorporated on existing boats include rope jib halyards with soft shackles and a wider and stiffer tiller.

The latest boats built by Heritage also have a new deck moulding with the main traveller recessed, which reduces friction as the control line has to pass through fewer right angled corners, making it far easier for the crew to move the traveller even in strong airs. In addition, the new position of the jib sheet allows the bowman to hike without twisting his body. There’s also an option for recessing spinnaker lines and control line cleats.

At the same time as optimising the deck layout, the team also worked with designer Hugh Welbourn to optimise the foils. While Heritage built Etchells have always been renowned for downwind speed, the keel entry is now marginally wider to give a bit more bite upwind. The new skeg is thinner, with a finer entry and new moulds have been produced with finer tolerances, so the components all fit together more precisely.

Four of the new boats are already on the water, with a fifth in the moulds. All are built to an exceptionally high standard: 'Every step of the way David has never skimped on aiming for perfection, allocating all the time and materials needed to produce the best result possible,' says Palfrey. 'I have never seen production boats built to such a high level in the 25 years I’ve spent in the class – the only ones comparable are those that owners spend a lot of money and time on optimising themselves. David works to the same level that you see in the Olympics or an America’s Cup campaign.'

One example of Heritage’s attention to detail is the use of a theodolite when stepping the mast. This allows the keel to be aligned with the rig to an accuracy of 2mm at the hounds, almost 9metres above the deck. In addition, each boat is sailed with its new owner, as part of a package aimed at producing a boat that’s fully optimised when it is handed over. The goal is to produce a boat that the new owner could take straight out and win a world championship.

These modifications will be on several of the 20 boats in the inaugural Etchells International Invitational Cup in Cowes at the end of July. Teams from 14 countries, including several past world champions, will race for the 140 year old Gertrude Cup under the auspices of the Royal Thames and Royal London Yacht Clubs.
Ancasta Ker 33 660x82Zhik Isotak Ocean 660x82Helm Events 660x82

Related Articles

SSL Finals - Mark Mendelblatt and Brian Fatih victorious in Nassau
Mark Mendelblatt and Brian Fatih (USA) have won the SSL Finals 2016 and a lion share of the $200,000 Prize Purse. Mark Mendelblatt and Brian Fatih (USA) have won the SSL Finals 2016 and a lion share of the $200,000 Prize Purse. In a dramatic final day, the American pair came with a whisker of being eliminated in the Semi Final and a highly competitive final race, saw three different teams take the lead in an epic display of sensational racing in the tactically challenging Montagu Bay, Nassau, Bahamas.
Posted today at 5:02 am
Star Sailors League Final - Day 4
Today was the final day of the Qualification Series at the SSL Final and it didn’t go as well as Josh and I hoped for. Today was the final day of the Qualification Series at the SSL Final and it didn’t go as well as Josh and I hoped for. We ended up where we started the day… in 15th. We had glimpses of upward movement; leading at the first mark of the first race. But I forgot to go back to the well on the second windward leg and ended up eighth in a race that we led in.
Posted on 3 Dec
Ten teams announced for Star Sailors League Finals 2016
Light airs forced a delay to the start of the fourth and final day of the SSL Qualifying Rounds to select ten teams Light airs forced a delay to the start of the fourth and final day of the SSL Qualifying Rounds to select ten teams for the SSL Finals 2016, which take place tomorrow.
Posted on 3 Dec
Star Sailors League Finals - Light airs make for an exhausting Day 3
Three races were held today on Montague Bay for Star fleet. Mark Medleblatt/Brian Fatih sailed consistently to take lead Three races were held today on Montague Bay for the Star fleet. The southeasterly winds were considerably lighter than the previous days at eight knots dropping to as little as four knots by the end of the day. Mark Medleblatt and Brian Fatih sailed very consistently to take the lead in the series while Robert Scheidt, Diego Negri and Xavier Rohart each had at least one bad race.
Posted on 2 Dec
Star Sailors League Finals - Top three in a world of their own - Day 2
Four races were held today outside Montegue Bay off the east end of New Providence Island. Four races were held today outside Montegue Bay off the east end of New Providence Island. The wind was easterly at 14 knots for the first race dropping to 7 knots for the fourth race. There was a 15 degree persistent shift to the southeast as the day went on.
Posted on 2 Dec
Star Sailors League Finals 2016 - Leaders emerge
Robert Scheidt and Henry Boening lead Qualifying Rounds of SSL Finals 2016 after a stellar performance in Montague Bay Robert Scheidt and Henry Boening (BRA) lead the Qualifying Rounds of the SSL Finals 2016 after a stellar performance in Montague Bay, Nassau, Bahamas.
Posted on 1 Dec
Star Sailors League - Overall report
We are back in Nassau for the fourth Star Sailors League Final. SSL is creation of Michel Niklaus, a Swiss Star sailor. We are back in Nassau for the fourth Star Sailors League Final. The Star Sailors League (SSL) is the creation of Michel Niklaus, a Swiss Star sailor who has a dream. Michel’s dream is to bring together the best sailors in the world and have them compete against each other.
Posted on 1 Dec
World Sailing lead the conversation at the Yacht Racing Forum
Sailing - sport, technology and nature in perfect harmony was the message delivered by World Sailing CEO Andy Hunt Sailing - sport, technology and nature in perfect harmony. This was the message delivered by World Sailing CEO Andy Hunt at the opening session of the Yacht Racing Forum in Valletta, Malta that provided the backbone to much of the day's conversations and presentations.
Posted on 29 Nov
Zhik Avlare wins 2016 METS DAME Award
Do you know a child or perhaps a dog or a cat that absolutely hates having a bath? Do you know a child or perhaps a dog or a cat that absolutely hates having a bath? Well here are a range of Men’s and Women’s tops that are so hydrophobic the only adjective that describes them is hate.
Posted on 17 Nov
World Sailing - Women highest polling candidates for Vice-President
Women candidates polled the highest in the election for Vice-President at the just concluded World Sailing General Assem Women candidates polled the highest in the election for Vice-President at the just concluded World Sailing General Assembly. There were fifteen candidates for seven positions on the former Executive Committee now the Board of World Sailing. In the full voting results just released by World Sailing, female candidates took three of the top four positions.
Posted on 16 Nov