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If not one, then the other for Etchells

by John Curnow on 10 Mar 2013
Busy times on board Fifteen. - Entire 2013 Etchells Victorian Championship Alex McKinnon © http://www.alexmckinnonphotography.com
So if yesterday was all about the warm Northerly, then today just had to be about the cooler Southerly. It seems only fair, after all, but the crews had to wait a little for it.

There were the obligatory Swiss cheese holes in the wafting ‘wind’ that hung over Port Phillip this morning, so it was little wonder that the Answering Pennant with an hour’s delay to racing was pretty quickly hoisted at around 1000hrs, so as to keep the crews ashore for a bit longer.


Soon enough it was evident that a 10-knot sea breeze would hold from the Sou’east and so racing was to begin at a little after noon. The axis was set at 160 degrees and the crews would push South for 1.6nm into what was a genuine and full 10-12 knots. The appearance of white caps went from the occasional item to more like a definite, as a direct result of the wonderful sailing breeze. Naturally, it was also a lot cooler than the preceding day, as well.

The AP at sea went down at 1220hrs and there were many crews that went for the stronger headsail as they pottered around. The first start was super hotly contested, but notable for being very clean, as well. Most crews opted for the pin of the line, closer in to shore, with Chris Hampton, Ian Johnson and Matt Johns on Tango doing well. The bulk of the fleet would opt for this left side, including Graeme Taylor, Noel Drennan and Steve Jarvin on Magpie.


All but a few, like The Jukes of Hazzard and Smile n Wave, would not push right to the edge of the course over near Brighton’s famous and colourful bathing boxes that line the beach and come back towards the centre. John Bertrand, AM with Bill Browne and Jake Newman would be the first to the top mark, albeit that they had to shoot the tube a little to get around. Magpie and then Dawn Raid (Jake Gunther, Ben Solly and John Collingwood) were next, with around half the fleet opting for the immediate gybe, as soon as they had rounded the hitch mark.

By the time they got to the bottom after the first run, it was still Triad leading over Magpie, but Tango had climbed to third place, with Dawn Raid now in fourth. Known craft like Fifteen (David Clark, Robert Scrivenor and Michael Hughes), as well as Barry (Damien King, Simon Cunnington, Aaron Cole and Tom King) would also fill the top ten. It was also a noisy rounding, as many crews arrived at the same time and room became scarce. Easy Rider was taken about five lengths past the mark by a group including On A Mission, Zephyr and Smoke and Mirrors, which they were certainly not thrilled by.


Zephyr would do a penalty turn at that time, in acknowledgement of an infringement. Most of the fleet went back inshore after the rounding, except for a few, which included vessels like Barry. However, the draw of the shore was evident as the vast majority kept plugging away at that side of the course, even traversing back over to get to it. This is most likely due to a left hand shift that was persistent, if not consistent.


At the top again, Triad would lead Magpie and then Tango. The Jukes of Hazzard (Brendon Jukes, Nigel Jones, Matthias Houvenagel and Massimo Fecht) had an incident here that saw the tip of the spinnaker pole have a moment in the water and then went around again. This would seem to be off to the protest room later today. Last around would be Smoke and Mirrors who had a third around a mark yesterday, so it just proves that Etchells is even, but also tough sailing. The top of the table would not change by the time they crossed the finish line at the bottom.

Immediately after the race, Triad were asked if they were making a statement with another win, Bill Browne chuckled, Jake smiled and John said in his usual and casual way, 'We’ll see how we go.'


As preparations for the second race continued, an almost Armageddon like cloud appeared and hung over Melbourne’s CBD, which stood in stark contrast to the beaming sunshine glowing all over the Bay. The sequence for said race would begin at just before 1400hrs, with a real 11 knots blowing down from 155 to 160 degrees. The length of course remained unchanged at 1.6nm. Easy Rider (Reece James, Brett James and Matthew Hazewinkel) had to take an Individual Recall for being a tad early to the line and Fifteen, who had been with the mass down at the boat end, decided to tack over on to port and ducked many a stern in clearing the others.

Perhaps Clark and crew set a trend, for many were to follow suit as they experienced dirty air from all the boats heading on to shore. Class President, Jake Gunther, took Dawn Raid across, too. It certainly worked for Fifteen, who were up with the leaders, most of whom were out on the left doing their thing. Interestingly, by coming back right, they would be closer to the axis of the course and this would prove to be more than beneficial. From a fleet of 25 craft, seeing just four out to the right was certainly easy to spot.


Team Barry would be the ones to lead the mass out from the beach side, but the four pioneers out West had been rewarded for their courage. Triad would perform a wonderful comeback to go around ahead of Fifteen, who did not hold all of their wonderful gains. Magpie was in that mix right at the mark, but the dirty air from the others certainly slowed them down by a couple of lengths. Tango and Jazasa (John Abikhair, Peter James and Ben O’Brien) were part of the leadership group, as well. Triad did go very wide between the top and hitch marks, taking Fifteen with them, so this did allow Magpie back in to the mix a little.

There was a course change at the top here, to 355 degrees as the reciprocal, so 175 became the new axis. Triad lead Magpie around at the bottom, with Fifteen next and Tango, Jazasa, the Moe Szyslak Experience (Brendan Garner, Michael Schilt and Tim Clark) and then Barry constituting the top pack. Magpie would tack almost immediately to come back through the remainder of the fleet who were still heading down. This too would be the flavour of the mark. Take the inshore mark of the gate and then head back out to sea, as it were.


Many, many craft would come in close to Green Point, with four really going in to see if the fisherman had caught anything. This included Jazasa. The centre of the course did seem to be favoured and the breeze took a more moderate approach too, backing off to maybe 8knots and the ‘seaway’ also softened very smartly. Perhaps this is why many craft were seen to head right across the course to the seaward side and looking back to some of the craft left behind, you could see that there was a distinct difference in their pace.

Out on the right and in a group of four were Fifteen, Tango, Triad and Magpie the most to weather and as it would come to pass, with the best lay line in to the top mark. That meant Magpie did lead Triad, Fifteen, Tango, Barry, Voodoo Spirit and The Jukes of Hazzard to the top for the last time on Sunday. Magpie would go for the gybe straight after the mark and this was then adopted by the vast majority of the fleet, too. Perhaps with the breeze settling more like 180 to 185 degrees.

Magpie would win over Triad, who came surfing in to get second from Fifteen with Tango and Barry leading another collection of closely spaced vessels home. Deborah Lloyd, the event Principal Race Officer, said of tomorrow’s final day, 'I’ll be aiming to get the two races in and complete the full suite of six in from 1100hrs. We already have a series, having completed three races earlier today and four now. We get a drop after five, so there’s plenty in there for everyone.'


'My team has done so well with getting all the tasks completed and then changes of course and moving of marks, too. They’re great', Lloyd finished with. Leading the tables after the four races and proving consistency is everything is Triad, with Barry next and then Fifteen in third place, one point astern. The Doctor and Tango may be too far afield to pounce, but you would not want to say that until all six races are completed.

So the Etchells have had one and then the other and all will be talking to Hughie, the God of Wind, to ensure he delivers anything but the dreaded flukey Easterly, so that more champagne sailing can continue and a new Victorian Etchells State Champion be crowned after tomorrow’s racing.

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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