While Audi Victoria Week is looming large with the Australia Day Weekend just a few weeks away, there is a very major sailing event that started at the Royal Geelong Yacht Club this weekend.
After measurement and registration Saturday and Sunday and a practice race on Monday afternoon, on Tuesday at 1pm on Geelong’s Corio Bay, a fleet of more than 50 of Australia’s top sailing crews will face the starter in the 2011 Rex Gorell Prestige Etchells Australian Championship, a nine race series running through until next Saturday 15th January.
Amongst the favourites to the win the Australian Championship is a crew of Geelong sailors led by one of the top sailors in the recent Sydney to Hobart race, local sailor Brendan Garner, who works full time with Powerdrive Marine, the Geelong Marine chandlery in Yarra Street.
We spoke to Brendan about his Hobart experience and the upcoming Etchells regatta.
‘I did the Hobart on one of the top handicap boats, a 50 footer canting keel boat called Jazz and that was a bit of fun.
‘There were four Geelong guys in the 12 man crew, myself, Tim Davis, Jake Newman and Fergus Forbes.’
Brendan continued. ‘It was a tough Hobart race and we got very close to the Overall win. The race all came down to how we all got around Tasman Island, at the head of Storm Bay, just 40 nautical miles from Hobart. We were one of the first 50 footers there and parked up. Had we got around cleanly I think it would have been a case of minutes on overall time.’
Jazz finished second overall on handicap behind the winner Secret Mens Business 3.5, but won the Hobart race on the new Ocean Racing Handicap system after winning their division.
Now we are preparing for the Rex Gorell Prestige Etchells Australian Championship, Brendan continued ‘It is a one design regatta with all the boats the same, so for this one, its first over the line wins.
‘Our entry is a bit of a mouthful unless you watch the Simpsons on television. It’s the The Moe Szyslak Experience (Moe Szyslak is owner of Moe’s Tavern in the Simpsons).
‘The Moe crew are starting to get some goods results. We have won the club championship for the past two years.
‘My team is Tim Clarke (who is the Geelong Etchells fleet Captain and is heading up the Organising team for the Rex Gorell Prestige Etchells Australian Championship) and Michael Schilt. We bought the boat together and we have been sailing together as a team for three and half years now.
‘Over the last three years we have started to do a few Etchells regattas and we’ve been gradually getting better and better and starting to get some more consistent results. I will be in home waters so I am pretty confident in getting a good result. We will be aiming for the top ten’.
He continued ‘Our best achievement at top level was 12th at the Audi Etchells World Championship at Brighton. We were sitting inside the top ten for a lot of that event until we were over the starting line early in the last race. By the time you return and so forth, well that slipped us back from eighth to 12th. We finished third in the last Victorian title, but we have managed a number of top 10 results in various Australian titles.
‘We are always close (to the top). It’s just a matter of us getting the consistency together a bit better and we should be a good chance.
‘Sailing in home waters is an advantage. On Corio Bay there are a lot of wind shift directional changes and our local knowledge should help us. If you do find yourself back in the fleet there are still chances to make up ground and I think that in Geelong there are more opportunities to improve your position throughout the race.
‘We use Ullman Sails, supplied by local sail maker Tony Bull. Our sails have a fairly good range and are able to flatten out quickly if Corio Bay is flat, but they are still powerful in the top of the sail. If we get northerlies with any strength it will be pretty choppy, so you still need to have that option of being able to power up.
‘I am pretty sure that no matter what conditions we encounter throughout the Championship, we will have sailed in them at some stage on Corio Bay’ Garner concluded.
There are five Geelong entries in the Rex Gorell Prestige Etchells Australian Championship and can be identified by their high sail numbers.
THE ARCHER - AUS1189 - Clark Swan
VOODOO SPIRIT - AUS1024 - Guyon Wilson
FREE ADVICE - 1335 - Mary Hanna
PEDRO - AUS1366 - Kirwan Robb
THAT’S LIFE - AUS1293 - Ian Crisp
Geelong stages Audi Victoria Week each January and Audi sponsored the 2006 Audi Etchells World Championship in Fremantle in 2006 and again in Melbourne in 2009.
Geelong Yacht Club General Manager Phil Clohesy said ‘'We are delighted that the very substantial Geelong based Rex Gorell Group, through their Audi dealership, has formed a partnership with the Royal Geelong Yacht Club, which consolidates our connection to Audi Victoria Week and brings the prestigious Rex Gorell Prestige Australian Etchells Championships to the Geelong waterfront.'
The Rex Gorell Group is the largest regional multi franchise automotive dealership with over 300 staff.
Brett Gorell commented 'Sailing is a strong part of Geelong's history and Audi Victoria Week is probably the largest sailing event in the southern states.
'We are pleased Audi is such a strong supporter of sailing. It is good for us because these big events are so great for Geelong itself. It brings so many people to the place. We are not only passionate about Audi and the brands we sell; we are passionate about Geelong itself.' For more information go to http://www.rgyc.com.au/etchells-australian-championships
Media planning to cover this event should complete media registration online. High resolution images will be available for editorial use.