There was a special moment of triumph at the Mooloolaba Yacht Club Marina this afternoon when Lake Macquarie sail maker Peter McNeill cast his little Aussie battler image after helming Tom Pepper XVll to win the ACE World Etchells championship.
McNeill a 12 times world title veteran, borrowed a boat from a friend then capitalised on expert crew work from regular Lake Macquarie mainsheet hand Paul Turner and Sunshine Coast Olympian Greg Torpy to eventually out sail the 85 boat fleet including Americas Cup Winners Dennis Conner and John Bertrand to record his career best result.
As expected winning what is recognized as the most demanding one-design World championship in yachting had a number of drama packed incidents more notably the decisions to declare the critical seventh race a non event then reverse the decision 15 hours later.
During this time the chain of events were enough to crack the most experienced Etchells sailor but fortunately Peter McNeill weathered the storm.
‘The last 24 hours was a mind bending experience and I’m pleased it’s over’. McNeill said as he triumphantly stepped ashore.
His Tom Pepper XVll crew mastered a varied range of winds and enormous pressure over the previous 24 hours when there was an endless stream of protests filed with the International Jury.
Some were bordering on frivilous and were not in the best interests of what is regarded as a really great class but then I guess every skipper has the right to protest on his belief.
But all of this drama was not going to detract the Tom Pepper XVll crew who sailed like champions from heat 1 to eventually finish the 8 race series with the remarkably consistent score of 2-8-11-13-8-5-4 to win the title with 15 points to spare from former World champion Cameron Miles from Sydney while the young New South Wales skipper Julian Plante pipped Dennis Conner for third.
Results (Top 10).
Tom Pepper XVll (Peter McNeill, NSW) 2-8-11-13-8-5-(37)-4 51pts 1,
Pacesetter (Cameron Miles, NSW) 11-12-8-5-10-3-(33)-17 66pts 2,
Odyssey (Julian Plante, NSW) 13-1-29-18-(42)-8-3-7 79pts 3,
Menace (Dennis Conner, USA) 23-11-(44)-8-2-19-4-27 94pts 4,
Satu (Glen Collings, Vic) 14-23-16-12-28-1-6-(OCS) 100pts 5,
Squid (Chris Pratt, SA) 9-(40)-6-25-11-7-36-18 112pts 6,
Moody Blues (Rob Bird, WA) 48-2-(51)-11-12-9-7-25 114pts 7,
Whooshka (Lucas Down, Qld) 29-(47)-1-31-5-23-8-21 118pts 8,
The Croc (Michael Manford, WA) 19-57-33-1-1-(OCS)-13-11 135pts 9,
Racer XY (Jason Muir, Qld) 6-(61)-7-6-6-43-48-19 135pts 10.