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When it comes to Etchells - What is it about Port Phillip?

by John Curnow on 22 Sep 2011
Bertrand and co. carving it up in the Port Phillip chop. - Etchells Entire Winter Series Alex McKinnon
In 2010, three of the top five from the Etchells Worlds held in Ireland hailed from Melbourne’s Port Phillip. Move forward to the 2011 Worlds in San Diego and two from the top ten called the Bay their home. True!

True. Some of the crew may not refer to the relatively shallow waters of the mainland’s Southern capital as their base, but John ‘JB’ Bertrand, the 2010 Champion, Noel ‘Nitro’ Drennan, Runner-Up in 2011 and Class President, Jake Gunther, certainly do.

To see if there was some mysterious element in theses waters, during a recent trip, I took to the seas to determine what, if anything, was going on down there. Now a bunch of heads came out for the first race including JB, Nitro and Jake, along with some serious Etchells campaigners, such as John Coates and Brendon Jukes. Also around were keelboat boat owners, like Peter Coleman.

A blowy Nor’Norwester greeted the 14-boat fleet as they appeared for the noon gun. At the time it was 18 knots, but marched on very quickly from there to the Class maximum of 28 a bit after three. Around half past three it spiked through at 35 knots, before clocking left in hurry to the South and occupying the mid to high teens. Blissfully, the fleet were done with their three races by then, but back at the hardstand it allowed for challenges with docking and craning back, none the less.

Before racing, John had Triad off to the North working uphill towards the CBD. Others got into a spot of two-boating and still others decided some gybe practice may well be the order of the day.

Soon enough it all got serious, as you would expect, and a clean start at noon was a good way to get Race Six of the Entire Etchells Winter Series off and running. The usual suspects did well in the building breeze and were all in the top four once they got to the top mark, with Back In Business showing them way to the hitch mark. They would go on to win that one, with Bertrand, Drennan, Jukes and Gunther making the top five.

Bertrand was DNF for Race Seven, which started just after 1300hrs in a solid 22 knots. Jake and crew aboard, The Boat, won that, with Tango, Back In Business, Dawn Raid and Boat X (Drennan) making the top five.



At 12 minutes after two, the last race of the day got away in fully 25 knots, now. John was back on the course and got the win, with Dawn Raid, The Boat, Jukes of Hazzard (Brendon Jukes) and Boat X competing the first five finishers. Five vessels did not make the start/finish of Race Eight and those that did certainly worked hard. Good thing many had taken in sustenance after the first race of the day.

With yet more water having doused the crews during the last race and given that they’d been out there for some three and half hours, all were keen to return. Interestingly, after it was all done for the day, Class Association President Jake Gunther, has a handy 19-point lead in the series. Well done to the Race Management team from Royal Brighton Yacht Club, too. The Committee Boat was certainly ‘dancing’ behind her anchor chain.

So maybe it’s the short chop, the frequent bullets that zoom in or the near 180-degree swings in a day that are on offer, which allow for these sailors to be amongst the most revered around the globe. Perhaps it is even their fierce determination to brave the elements.

None of it seemed to matter at all to at least one sailor on the day, who was smiling throughout the racing. He was sailing with JB, however, which may explain it…



At any rate, one thing can be identified. That is, a lot of people will be watching the Port Phillip gang come February, 2012. (Etchells Worlds 2012)






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