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Etchells Pre-Worlds - drama for Big Guns in first race

by Tracey Johnstone on 11 Feb 2012
David Clarke, Andrew Smith and Alan Smith take Fifteen to a win in the first race of the series. - Zhik Etchells Nationals 2012 Damian Devine
Some of the top title contenders in the Zhik International Etchells 2012 Australian Championship have placed themselves in an unenviable position right at the start of the first race.

With only eight races to the four-day event being held off Pittwater and with a fleet of exceptional sailing talent, breaking the line on a Black Flag start in the first race of the series is for John Bertrand, Vince Brun, Tom King and Mark Langford a costly mistake.

For Bertrand, who is chasing a third national championship title, it certainly came as a shock to observers to hear the call. 'We didn’t interpret the sailing instructions correctly. Our assumption, which was incorrect, was that the start line was between the two extreme committee boats and the centre boat was not part of the line. When you re-read the sailing instructions that is indeed not the case. So all our transits were wrong,' Bertrand said. .

The relative calm around the dock this morning belied the tension that the international 61 yacht fleet showed on the start line today in first race of the Zhik International Etchells 2012 Australian Championship.

The fleet lined up for its first warning signal on time at 1200 hours. The course was set for 170 degrees to the top mark on a 1.6 mile work and the breeze a comfortable eight to 10 knots. The start line with split and the pin end favoured. With 45 seconds to go it was clear the front boats were going to be over.

With voices raised and tension high, a general recall was the only choice. It then took the race committee only a short time to reset the course to 160 degrees and fire the second warning signal for race one. Again the pin end was favoured with the top boats bunched up tightly close to the mark. Unfortunately it was another general recall.

Finally at 1235 hours the fleet got away under a Black Flag.

And then the call came over the VHF; four boats were BFD – Triad (John Bertrand), Iron Lotus (Tom King), Menace (Vince Brun) and Critical Balance (Mark Langford).

At the far pin end of the line Barry (Damian King) held his place as he was pushed down to just cross safely into clear air and head out left. He looked like he had good boat speed, but soon he was sailing away from the rest of the fleet and never recovered from that tactical error.

The start though went to Fifteen (David Clark) who held his composure throughout the dramatic start to have a masterful lead over the fleet the first time around the top mark. 'The start was key. We were one up from the pin and that was the first shift that went left. We managed to get out of there early and then leveraged a little right to get the next right shift. The guys did a really good job of picking the first couple of phases and we were going reasonably fast.

'The last little bit of the beat we missed the last shift so GT (Graeme Taylor/Magpie) did the most damage there. Pretty much all the way down the run we held them off. It was not so much the run, it was just missing that last shift on the beat.'

Fifteen lead the race throughout and luckily just held off Magpie’s advances to finish one boat length ahead and take out line honours.

'We are very comfortable with what we achieved today. Keep going that we will be fine,' Clark said.

Magpie’s team were happy to take out second place in the first race. It is a performance pattern that is not unusual for this team having recently won the Zhik Etchells NSW Championship after starting with second place in the first three races. 'Good way to start. Pleasant sailing,' Taylor quipped at the end of the first race.

Into third came the Roulette team with Etchells 2006 World Champion Jud Smith on the helm.

Special mention today has to go to the Grand V (Gordon Hinds) team on the 511 hull. They bought the old boat for $5,000 and have enjoyed sailing it ever since. Hinds and his team of Stephen Ingate and Adrian Dunphy finished eighth in today’s race.

Sadly there was no chance for Bertrand, King, Brun and Langford to turn their fortunes around with the second scheduled race cancelled. A fast moving storm cell out of the west with heavy rain and damaging winds, thunder claps and lightening, convinced the race committee to move the fleet inshore behind Barrenjoey to wait it out. By 1515 hours it was clear the storm was likely to stay in long enough to stop a second race getting safely finished, so the fleet was sent home for an early finish to the day.

In reviewing the decision to cancel further racing, Regatta Director David Ritchard said the race committee would not have changed anything. 'On 10 February 1991 we had exactly the same storm conditions. The storm turned green as it headed down the Hawkesbury. There were 55 plus knots and major damage to the boats. I lost my rig.'

Top ten overall places after one race are –
1 David Clark/Alan Smith/Andrew Smith, Fifteen, CYCA, AUS, 1 pts
2 Graeme Taylor/Grant Simmer/Steven Jarvin, Magpie, M YC, AUS, 2 pts
3 Jud Smith/Mark Johnson/Nikolas Burfoot, Roulette, RSYS, AUS, 3 pts
4 Thomas Braidwood/Ben Lamb/Matthew Rhys-Jones/Ty Marshall, Bad Doll, LMYC, AUS, 4 pts
5 Mark Tonner-Joyce/Glen Gibson/John Cuthbert Collingwood, Dawn Raid, RBYC, AUS, 5 pts
6 Douglas McGain/Adrian Reed/Gary Adshead, Ciao, CYCA, AUS, 6 pts
7 Alastair Gair/Anna Ganley/Dave Ridley/Derek Scott, Velsheda, RNZYS, NZL, 7 pts
8 Gordon Hinds/Adrian Dunphy/Stephen Ingate, Grand V, RSYS/RANSA, AUS, 8 pts
9 Jake Gunther/Stuart Skeggs/Tony McPhail, The Boat, RBYC, AUS, 9 pts
10 James McHugh/Andy Beadsworth/Pete McCormick, Anamchara, S NG, SUI, 10 pts

The International Etchells 2012 Australian Championship is sponsored by Zhik, North Sails, Pacesetter Yachts, Protector Yachts and Wetton Signage Group.

The full results can be found on the event website

Naiad/Oracle SupplierZhik ZKG

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