Ullman Sails UK Etchells National Championships 2012, organized by the Cowes Corinthian Yacht Club, are being held on the Solent this weekend. On Saturday the Etchells fleet enjoyed four extremely closely-fought races in champagne sailing conditions – bright sun and a west south-westerly breeze of 10-12 knots at midday building to 15-18 knots by the end of the day.
In the first race almost half the fleet was overlapped as they approached the leeward gate at the end first lap of the course, until Shaun Frohilch’s Exabyte slowed the right-hand most group of boats with a hard luff that resulted in several collisions and protests.
Three boats got away at the front of the fleet – with Ante Razmilovic’s Swedish Blue holding a 15-second advantage at the finish over series leader James Howells’ Gelert, Stuart Childerly’s Loup Garou lX took third, 23 seconds later, just ahead of Andrew Cooper’s Ice. In a clear illustration of just how close the racing is in this class, 10 boats crossed the line in the next 42 seconds, with just eight seconds separating places 10 to 14.
The second race of the day saw Gelert reassert her dominance, finishing a full 30 seconds in front of Rob Goddard’s Stampede.
The third race saw a different group of boats at the front. David Franks’ Elvis was second approaching the leeward gate at the end of the first lap, but a knot in the spinnaker halyard pulled into the block and had to be cut free. Left with only one halyard for both spinnaker and jib, they inevitably slipped down the fleet, finishing 60 seconds behind third-placed Ice. But one minute is a long time in a Etchells race – and Elvis took 10th place. Loup Garou lX won this race, leading Lawrence Mead’s Freelance by the biggest margin of the day – 44 seconds.
With the line strongly biased towards the committee boat, the final race saw the only general recall of the event so far, but with the pin repositioned the fleet got away at the second attempt. Although there was more separation across the fleet at the start than in previous races, this still proved a close race, with the entire fleet of 17 boats finishing within 125 seconds. Sam Carter’s Sumo took first place, ahead of Bleddyn Mon’s Darling S, with Gelert third.
After six of the nine races in the series, after series leader Gelert, Andrew Cooper’s Ice is the most consistent boat in the fleet – she hasn’t won a race but has an impressively consistent string of top-six results, putting her in second place overall, ahead of Loup Garou lX. The event concludes on Sunday, with a further three races.
UK Etchells Class Association website