At the Etchells Worlds 2012, Sail-World.com interviewed the top title contenders after four days of competition - Tom King (Iron Lotus), Graeme Taylor (Magpie), John Bertrand (Triad) and Jud Smith (Roulette).
Tom King, the Sydney 2000 Olympic Gold medallist, winner of the 2011 Mooloolaba Etchells Mid-Winter series and 2012 Etchells World Championship leader with just one race to sail.
Tom: ‘A very interesting day. It was a very tricky day. We are used to sailing out there (off Sydney Heads) and having a track that favours the left because of the current, and there was no current today so we had a really even racecourse and the right was paying quite a lot. I think it took everyone a while to get their heads around it.
‘We were doing quite well in the first race but two thirds of the way up the first work we got ourselves all mixed up and sailed ourselves backwards down to 15th. In the second race we did the reverse. Pretty pleased to come in with the results we had. We nearly caught GT (Graeme Taylor) at the end.
‘We didn’t have a great start in that last race but we managed get out to the right side of the course and get some clear lanes and from then we didn’t see John Bertrand and Jud Smith, so presumably they struggled to get back from the left.
‘We are leading by just 11 points. It is still pretty close and 11 points is nothing in this fleet, particularly with guys who are capable of going out and winning races by a long way.
SW: This morning Jud commented that you guys had picked up quite a bit of boat speed since October.
Tom: ‘Yes, that is probably fair. We have been doing a little bit more sailing and we have been working with the guys at North Sails to try and get our heads around it all. We are getting more and more comfortable every day.
‘The crew is great Dave (Edwards) and Owen (McMahon) are both Olympians in their own right and fantastic sailors and Ivan (Wheen) has done a really wonderful job sailing on the bow and is doing a really good job too.
‘Looking back we feel that at the Mid-Winters we weren’t going so quickly. We just sailed well and we were a bit lucky there. The Nationals didn’t go so well; the gods weren’t smiling.
‘Here? Seems no matter what we do it all seems to work out alright’. Graeme Taylor ‘GT’ (Magpie) now second in the 2012 World Championship.
GT: ‘In the second race the guys around us were over, so we hung back from the line. We didn’t really have a great lane so we were lucky enough to get a few shifts to get out and we were motoring. We played the shifts up the middle a bit. We found some lane of current and we were just fast going along.
‘It is pretty hard for Tom to lose now but I think there is still a shot if we win and he comes 15th - then we win on a count back. We might have to hope he gets a black flag.’
John Bertrand, 2010 Etchells World Champion and winner of race 7 and leader of the Championship after race 7.
Etchells World Championship Sydney Australia 2012. Graeme Taylor (Magpie) rounding the windward mark. - http://www.ingridabery.com
After race 7 of the series, it all turned to custard for the Triad crew.
John: ‘The morning race went perfectly for us - you couldn’t ask for a more perfect race from my perspective.
‘In the second race, number eight in the series, the right side was favoured and the left side was favoured. We went up centre left and we got hammered from both sides - badly.
‘We were favouring it, but in fact the right came out just fine so boats that crossed behind us, lead us at the top mark by 100 metres.
‘Overall its very tricky out there. Anyone could say they knew exactly what was going on - but you would question that.’
Jud Smith, the 2006 World Champion, was leading at the beginning of the day but finished with results of 17th and 30th.
Etchells World Championship Sydney Australia 2012. John Bertrand, Tom Slingsby and David Giles approaching the spreader mark - http://www.ingridabery.com
Jud: 'It was as bad as it could have been today.
‘We came back ok in the first race, kept it close to Tom (King) but John (Bertrand) had a good morning race and we didn’t. We made some mistakes but we dug out in decent shape up the first beat. We probably got around the top 12th and made one more move to the left and that was bad.
‘Then Tom King came and tacked on us and that really pushed us back and we were lucky to get back to 14th in that race.
‘The last race is what really hurt us. We switched jibs and that was probably not a good move. We started and we just weren’t quite in the pressure.
‘Tom King got flushed to the right and that turned out to be the way to go; he needed have a good start. The reality is that we were ahead of him at that point and we should have stuck with him. In that respect we probably didn’t make a good decision - it was over at that point.
‘We had a good first run and went to the wrong gate, didn’t go the right way.
‘The bottom line is we didn’t really have a handle on the wind all day. I think the only time we got on the right side of things we fumbled into it. The right just seemed to pay all day long. The current didn’t turn out to be much of a play at all.
'Overall it’s a tricky course. It’s a good place, pretty smooth conditions.
'We are close to second - been there before. We will see how it shapes up. We will go out and have as good a race as we can.
‘It is pretty close with Bertrand and ourselves. You never know.’
The ninth and final race in the 2012 Etchells World Championship is scheduled to start on the Manly Circle course off Sydney Heads, at 12 noon on Saturday 25 February.
The breeze will likely be a north-easter at around 10-12 knots.
Sail-World.com will again report the final race in detail.
Here is the result sheet for these top four crews: