With 26 crews booked in, including three from NSW, the 2014 Etchells Victorian Championship is set to continue to provide the kind of close racing you’ve come to expect from the One Design class. The championship will be sailed out of the Metung Yacht Club from March 8 to 10 inclusive. The location is exceptionally picturesque and more often than not, has a good, fresh breeze blowing to power the fleet along.
I was the Race Officer not only when the Etchells last conducted their Victorian Championship at Metung, but also for the last eight years when the Etchells come back for their annual East Gippsland Regatta. This has afforded me a good deal of experience with the local conditions', said Deborah Lloyd.
One person who won’t be able to enjoy all the fun and games is young Tiana Wittey. At just 14 years of age, she has already sailed in four NSW Championships. Etchells are the only class Tiana competes in, but her father, the legendary Nev Wittey, has put his foot down. Her studies must come first and whilst she may have other ideas, including stowing away in the boat as it gets towed down to Metung, missing out this time is a price she’ll have to pay for attending the world championships in Newport, Rhode Island this June.
Tiana Wittey keeps a low wind profile on the leeward side of Yandoo XX. - 2014 Etchells Victorian Championship - John Curnow ©
Wittey said, 'I have owned Yandoo XX (AUS 868) since early 1996. She is a Pamcraft built by Phil Moloney and launched for the Perth Worlds in 1990. Neville Creighton owned her originally, with Iain Murray doing the set up, but I bought her from John ‘Chocko’ Winning. She was lightly used in my earlier years, due to my Olympic and International Match Racing commitments and when she was raced, it was mostly for the NSW Championships, Millson Silver Goblets and the occasional Australian Championships.'
'At the NSW Championships we have enjoyed mostly good results over the years, with four firsts and one exciting count back ending in placing second. Yandoo XX has occupied every position in the top 10 over the years, and of course a few outside that area as well. Last year Yandoo XX enjoyed a fabulous makeover by Phil Smidmore, including a new floor and console making her as good as new!'
'My estimate is that Yandoo XX has competed in at least 18 NSW titles, with the last four having our current team of Jeanne-Claude Strong helming, myself on the sheet/tactics, Tiana as mid-bow and Marcus Burke up on the pointy end. We’re going to go three up for this regatta and have been doing some local racing with just the three of us on board as part of our preparation.'
Wittey has been to the Gippsland Lakes before to compete in the Solings’ Victorian Championship and also raced in the Marley Point Classic, 'Both times with very happy results! As we will be competing in the World Championships in Newport, Rhode Island later this year, we have in addition ramped up our training and preparation on Yandoo XX by participating in as many Mini Regattas as possible as a team.'
'We, though sadly without Tiana, are very much looking forward to travelling to Metung and competing in the Victorian Etchells Championship. A barrage of school assignments and an examination have made it impossible for Tiana to be present if she is to then be able to take leave for the Wold Championships in the USA', said Wittey, the father.
Tiana has advised she is, 'Disappointed to miss the opportunity because the last four years has been lots of fun sailing together as a team and this will be the first State title I have missed since we came together as a crew. I do have lots of schoolwork and my Oztag grand finals that clash, as well. We are working up to the worlds in June and I know Dad will arrange for me to make it up with extra training before we ship Yandoo XX off to the USA.'
Elsewhere, it will be easy to spot the North Sails MkVII SCR radial cut mainsails. No Star and Boat X will be sporting them, with the team bringing down brand new ones for Ian Crisp and Rob Hanna. These sails did well in the light and also the final, heavy and wet race of the recent Etchells NSW Championship.
Daily encouragement prizes are also being supplied by North Sails, which will include a range of apparel, but quite possibly the most sought after item will be the ability to ask sail and rig questions of Michael Coxon, Richie Alanson, Noel Drennan and Andrew Gavenlock. Of course, if you damage something, and provided it does not need to go to the loft, then there is the on-site repair service to seek out from them, as well.
Noel Drennan on the tiller of his Boat X in front of Melbourne’s CBD. - 2014 Etchells Victorian Championship - Alex McKinnon ©
Noel Drennan won last year’s Victorian Etchells Championship with Graeme Taylor and Steve Jarvin. Ben Morrison-Jack filled in on the last day for Jarvin, who had to go and attend to alpine duties. Indeed, Drennan has won three such titles whilst holding the tiller and a further two more as crew.
Drennan said, 'Yes. It is good to have the tiller once more. We won the previous State tile at Mornington when I was driving Boat X, which is the same driver/boat combination for this time. It will be good to have the reigning champ going up against the other reigning champs, so it’s a terrific thing that we’re all such wonderful friends. Of course, we just happen to enjoy winning against each other more than anything else. What better place for friends to be than out on a racecourse?'
John Shallvey and Glenn Fergusson have sailing with Drennan off Brighton for the last few years. 'It is always pretty good racing there and we’re looking forward to seeing if we can be top dog once more. Pretty impressive to be anywhere near the podium with this sort of fleet, I can tell you. Flat water equalises the whole equation, so it will be really close. There’s not a long beat available on this course, so it is bound to be super tight at the top mark. Certainly we’re looking forward to it and also to be a different location.'
Drennan finished by saying, 'Based on everyone going for some training on Friday, we’re now going a day early too!'
Reigning Victorian and NSW Etchells Champion, Graeme Taylor commented, 'We have James Mayo sailing with us at Metung. James silted with Cameron Miles and Andrew Palfrey when they won the World Championship at Pittwater in 1999. He hasn’t sailed for quite a few years now, but should fit in fine with Steve Jarvin and I.'
'We can’t wait to get back out on the water, start competing again and defend our Victorian title. Absolutely looking forward to the challenges of Metung, sailing on another closed waters and are happy with the experience we gained in Gosford back at the beginning of February.
Claiming another NSW title just recently: Graeme Taylor, Steve Jarvin and Grant Simmer receive their loot from Garmin’s, Jason Browne. - 2014 Etchells Victorian Championship - John Curnow ©
When asked for quote as part of this article, the always-entertaining Rob Hanna simply said, 'Sure... I hope I don’t come last!'
One of this country’s great campaigners, both inshore and offshore, Hanna went on to add, 'Seriously, I had my regular crew with me when I entered. Now, because of various reasons I’m sailing with new guys for the very first time. It’s very difficult in Etchells where the competition is so good. We will do our best, as will the others no doubt, but I expect the silverware to go to the established crews.'
So having started with someone who knows the conditions at Metung from a conducting racing point of view, let’s see what it’s like from a getting in there and sailing standpoint. Peter Coleman helms, Shoulda Gone Left with Wayne Dixon and Iain Gartley. They won the Etchells East Gippsland Regatta in 2012. 'Yes, we won the Gippsland event last year, much to our surprise, but it will be hard to do the same this time! We will be pretty happy with a top 20 spot overall, and then even that will be a big ask!'
'All the super heroes and experts are coming out to play and with the ‘must do bucket list’ World Championship coming up in Newport, Rhode Island in June, the who’s who of yachting will be in town. It will be good just to be on the same racecourse with them and soak it all up. Sure, it is always hard to compete with the professionals, but we will learn a lot! For us club sailors, it is a matter of, if you can read the first few boats sail numbers at the finish, then you have had a good one.'
Coleman went on to add, 'As a wise man said to me at the Etchells 2011 World Championship off San Diego, ‘sailing in an Etchells event is like being on the same tennis court as Roger Federer, footy field with Buddy Franklin, soccer field with David Beckham, car race against Sebastian Vettal, same patch of water with John Bertrand, etc. etc. etc. Take your medicine and enjoy the moment. You are not going to go very well, but you are competing in the greatest completive class ever! Cickey, look how long the great man, John Bertrand, has been sailing Etchells - it says something doesn’t it!'
Close racing is assured with Etchells. - 2014 Etchells Victorian Championship - David Jeffreys
'Any of the top 7-8 boats can win it. However, that being said, the great thing about Etchells sailing is that you are always in the race, it is so close and you always have a race within a race, too', Coleman concluded with.
The 2014 Etchells Victorian Championship will once more provide for close racing, with a plethora of sailing talent to be on display 8-10 March, inclusive. To see how hot Metung can get, you’ll have to follow it closely. See http://www.etchells.org.au
for all the details, Notice of Race and online entry.