The annual Etchells Australasian Winter Championship is in its 18th year and has until now remained a title that once it has been won, it has never successfully been defended.
The Winters event, to be held this year from fifth to 8th June, is conducted on the open waters of Mooloolaba. The sailing conditions off the stunning shoreline test the mettle of all the crews. The winds, rolling sea and tides are part of the challenge. So too is the onshore nightlife which has distracted many a committed Etchells team.
Back on the water and with each year the entry numbers between 35 and 45, the racing is fierce and the chance to win open to all who attend. The names on the overall winner’s trophy shows a long list well-known skippers, but then there are some names that are still missing. The previous winners are David Rose (1997), Russell Coutts (1998), Ian Johnston (1999), Julian Plante (2000), Michael Coxon (2001), Mark Bradford (2002), Cameron Appleton (2003), Grant Wharington (2004), Rob Brown (2005), Cameron Miles (2006), Skip Lissiman (2007), Graeme Taylor (2008), Damien King (2009) and Alistair Gair (2010), Tom King (2011), Matthew Chew (2012) and Mark Thornburrow (2013).
Tom King’s Iron Lotus team manager and crew member, David Edwards, has put out the challenge that this year his team intend breaking the Etchells Winters curse. This is a challenge that has been voiced virtually every year since Queensland’s David Rose won the first event in 1997. However, Edwards thinks this year it is going to be different.
'The sheer weight of numbers says it’s got to happen this year. There is going to be enough past winners turn up. Everything I hear is that there is less and less people going to New York (Etchells Worlds),' Edwards said.
Edwards may be right. In the gradually growing entry list, King is already there along with Matt Chew and Michael Coxon. Other skippers due to enter are Graeme Taylor and Grant Wharington who hopes to get Greg Torpy off the helm for long enough to win a second Winters.
While the King’s team are experienced campaigners, they may struggle to make the podium this year. There have been many distractions in the first half of this year one of which has been the birth of King’s first child. Getting time off from work and family commitments has been challenging. 'Two word emails about where to be and when' has been Edwards method of managing King, Ivan Wheen, Owen McMahon and himself.
'We need time on the water and making sure we get value out of those sessions. Most of the work we have been doing recently has been with Cocko and the guys from Norths working on sail shapes and new sails.
'When we get together we make sure we have a set routine and we get into it and shake the dust off quickly. This year we will be in Mooloolaba and on the water by Wednesday which will gives us an extra half a day.'
For all event information including the Notice of Race and online entry, go www.mooetchells.yachting.org.au