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First at the Victorian Etchells Championship

by John Curnow on 9 Mar 2013
Let’s do a water dance with, Tango. - Entire 2013 Etchells Victorian Championship Alex McKinnon © http://www.alexmckinnonphotography.com
Right up front, let’s just get it done first and out of the way. It was definitely champagne sailing today. Yes. Hot temperatures, flat water, mild and warm breezes of enough consistency to race, yet with enough flicks to allow for the astute sailor to do well. ..

Happy sailors had a certain sense of glee as they marched out the Brighton Pier on the shores of Melbourne’s Port Phillip to get on with the first day. Those that had either been at the recent NSW Etchells Championship, or followed that regatta via the myriad of media being deployed, were quite possibly at the lead of the pack.


First to get away from the quay was the Mornington Fleet vessel, Dark Joker, with Grant Chipperfield, Ross Wade and Fenge Shave on board. There was more breeze around 1.5nm off the club than there was close into shore, with the distinct appearance of white caps very noticeable on the small waves of less than 0.5m, unlike up close to the beach. Indeed the biggest 1.5m rollers to come through had been generated by one of the large container vessels that had been transiting into Melbourne’s docks.

The Northerly had been barrelling through at well into the 20-knot bracket, but at noon, when the bulk of the fleet was heading on to the course, it fell back into the mid teens. At 2pm, it would come back in to 6-8 knots, where it would stay for the remainder of the day. What would not stay all that consistent was the direction, however. It would go left to as much as 315 in the second race, which meant a change to 325 degrees for the axis was required.


The first race for day one was conducted on an axis of 000 degrees, over a distance of 1.7nm, with 12 knots still coming down the Bay. A clean start, the first time the gun went, was quite possibly a bit surprising with the kinds of sailors taking part in this regatta. None the less, it was very good to see and it was a little favoured out to the left hand side. Graeme Taylor, Steve Jarvin and Noel Drennan on Magpie took the lead early, a place they got very used to for that race. John Bertrand, AM, with Bill Browne and Jake Newman put Triad in to second place.

A real split in the fleet occurred, which became even more apparent during the first work to the mark. The leaders took virtually half out to sea with them, whilst a large contingent went in close to the beach near Green Point. Those that did not go too far out and came back earliest, then consolidated their position to hold at the front.

Magpie would take the fleet around the top mark with Triad next. Ian Crisp, Marcus Sill and Fergus Forbes had That’s Life go around the mark next. Making the journey down from Sydney and relishing the conditions was third placegetter from Cronulla last week, Fifteen. David Clark, Rob Scrivenor and Michael Hughes raced hard all day, to sit on fourth place overall, with a second and seventh place putting them four points behind the leaders.


Peter Coleman, Iain Gartley and Wayne Dixon on Shoulda Gone Left were up there in the early bunch, too, going on to get a fourth for the race. Placing seventeenth in the next race has hurt them for the day, with eighth place being their home for the night. Yet again, consistency in Etchells is proven to be the key factor. A few went the gybe set at this mark, with Etchells Association President, Jake Gunther and his Dawn Raid, crewed by Ben Solly and John Collingwood being one of the vessels to perform this operation, as a little squirt of breeze went through. On a Mission, with Mal Blom, Ian Davidson and Michael Malone on board, performed a penalty turn at this rounding, as a result of an on water situation with Pedro and Vendetta.


Now, as is often the case with Port Phillip on a hot Northerly day, there is more breeze to be found up in close to town and it goes along the side of the CBD’s buildings, before then squirting down from Port Melbourne. Perhaps this why everybody went left after the first bottom mark rounding, being lead by Magpie, Triad and Fifteen. In a spectacular display of boat speed, Taylor, Drennan and Jarvin on Magpie would stretch the gap to second place during the second work to the top mark.


Magpie would go around for the last time in Race One in first place and then Fifteen, Triad, Shoulda Gone Left, Tango, Barry and The Doctor, in that order. The top four would all hold those positions down to the gun at the bottom, with The Doctor next, followed by Barry, That’s Life and The Jukes of Hazzard. After the race, Graeme Taylor commented whilst still holding the tiller, 'Yes we are certainly delighted to have held the speed we showed at last week’s NSW Etchells State Championship. Feels good to be out here.'

Principal Race Officer, Deborah Lloyd spent a little time after that shortening the course and also ensuring that the axis would be stable and correct. Her target was for two, 75-minute races for the day and the first one was two minutes under and the last one would be just two minutes over. As the wind softened some more, the crews took the opportunity to change headsails over to their light weather versions.

The reports from the top of the course started to be heard on the radio, firstly calling 355 degrees, then 345, 335 signifying that it was all going left. So as a result, the Answering Pennant went up with just two minutes left to run in the start sequence for the second race. Nine knots was recorded at the top, but the bottom was showing 15 knots at the same time. 325 degrees at 1.3nm was settled upon, in the end.

It was not going to be a good start for both Magpie and Fifteen, who were called back for being On Course Side before the start. This would hurt both crews, with the former being in fifth place after the tally was done and the latter in fourth. The boat end was favoured and it would Triad and Barry, Damien King, Simon Cunnington, Tom King and Aaron Cole who looked the best.


The left hand side of the course was favoured, yet unfortunately for a good majority of the fleet, they had chosen to go right inshore, so did not get to benefit from this. Triad got a knock, just 500m from the top mark for the first time in this race and so Barry would be the first around. A huge armada of vessels came in at just about the same time after that, with The Doctor leading them.


A lot of crews favoured the inshore gate at the bottom, but then chose to go back out to sea. At the top of the course for the second time and there was a course change to 340 degrees, as Barry lead the fleet around, with Triad in second, and then a lot of daylight back to third, which would be Smoke and Mirrors – Jack Ellis, David Buckland and Campbell Ewart – proving that you can do well in Etchells, even if you are not a known name.


First on the leaderboard after the days two races in none other than John Bertrand, who commented on the water as they departed from the course, 'Tricky day and there’s such a long way to go... We are really happy to have been so consistent today.' Barry would be in second place, Damien King commented from the course at the end of the day, 'Tom King is the man!' Well done Barry, back out on the track after a bit of break and you go on to get a bullet (first place). Little wonder this crew always feature at the regattas they attend. The Doctor, Ross Lloyd, Matt Turner and Peter Dowdney would be in third place for their day’s work.


Melbourne Etchells Fleet Captain, Dick Stephens, said once back ashore, 'So wonderful to get in such marvellous racing, especially for all the crews who have travelled from elsewhere in Victoria and New South Wales to get here. Many thanks to the Royal Brighton Yacht Club and Deborah Lloyd’s Race Management team for a great day and I’m very keen to see it all happen again tomorrow. Right now the crews seem very happy with the Hour of Power at the bar and the complimentary BBQ that is accompanying it. Happy times on the deck, as all the crews and families enjoy the time together, whilst overlooking the sunset.'

'You know, many people make this kind of regatta happen, but the Secretary of the Melbourne Fleet, Niesje Hees, has not only been outstanding in her contributions, but genuinely enthusiastic and she’s out racing as well, so thanks and then thanks again to her', Stephens finished with.

The 2013 Etchells Victorian State Championship is brought to you by Entire, the fire services, air conditioning and engineering group. See etchells.org.au and www.rbyc.org.au/etchells for more information.

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