This coming Tuesday afternoon at 1pm a top class fleet of more than 50 Etchells One Design boats will start five days of intense racing for the 2011 Rex Gorell Prestige Etchells Australian Championship, to be sailed along the Geelong Waterfront, on Corio Bay.
Amongst the favourites in the fleet will be a boat called ‘Barry’, being sailed by four Victorian sailors; Damien King, Simon Cunnington, James Ware and Andrew Butler. They finished second in the hard fought 2009 Audi Etchells World Championships on Port Phillip in Melbourne and then finished third in the 2010 Etchells World Championship in Ireland.
Twice catching the bouquet, the Barry crew are reluctant bridesmaids. ‘Its time we got the big white cars – maybe Audis’ laughed Barry skipper Damien King, who co-owns Barry with the mid boat crew Simon Cunnington.
Why is the boat called Barry?
King smiled as he explained 'It was the most un-nautical name we could think of!'
This morning King was looking forward to renewing the battle with Australian sailing icon John Bertrand, the current World Champion, at the Australian Championship this week.
'We were very pleased that we have twice taken second place at the Etchells Worlds. To finish anywhere in the top ten here would have made us happy.
'The good thing about the Etchells class is that there’s a very good depth of talent all the way through. I believe the one thing that brings you to Etchells class racing is that it does have such a significant depth of experience.
'Anyone can pull off a regatta win - if they are on the pace, pick the wind shifts, get clean air and have some luck!’ stated King.
He continued 'we focus on trying to get a top ten result in every race. That's just our process. I think towards the last third of the regatta you start to figure out who you need to not let get too far away from you. Leading up to a regatta we had no expectations about who is going to be the favourite - we are just looking forward to another great Etchells event.
‘As always it’s an excellent line up - all the greats.
‘John Bertrand’s new Triad team with Grant Simmer midboat should be fast. Its good to see the 1999 Etchells World Champion Cameron Miles (Are we there yet?) come back in Etchells after a few years off. No doubt he will do what he always does and get back into it pretty hard.
‘Dave Clark’s Fifteen is really very competitive and they sailed in the lead up event.
And Tommy Braidwood’s Lake Macquarie team on Bad Doll could be one to watch because they sailed very well at the Nationals. They have just come into the class and are sailing lead up events as preparation for the next Worlds.
‘Chris Hampton (Tango) was at the Worlds in Ireland and he has been training hard.
‘Jake Gunther (the Boat) and Stephen Gunther (Dawn Raid) are two skippers doing very well in the Club events and
at the Pre-Australian event held here in mid-December.’
King continued his analysis by saying ‘Brendan Garner (The Moe Szyslak Experience) is the hometown hope and will have local knowledge on his side.
‘Ross Lloyd (The Nurse) won the December event, so he is right on the pace.’
When asked about Graeme Taylor with Grant Wharington on Magpie, King replied ‘GT absolutely. We got second at the last Nationals and he got third and we only beat him by one point.’
Damien went on to further explain ‘As a kid I sailed on Corio Bay with the International Cadets a lot and our team has done various Etchells regatta over the years, so I know it is very shifty on the Bay.
‘For this championship we have the same team as we’ve had for the last ten years; Andy Butler, James Weir and Simon Cunnington – who is just back from winning the Hobart as part of the Secret Men’s Business 3.5 team.
‘Etchells consistency is a big thing and when you are sailing against a team like John Bertrand, Tom Slingsby and Andrew ‘Dog’ Palfrey, as we did when we came second to them at the Worlds, you notice their professionalism.
‘Which make it hard if you are an amateur. The amount of time we got the top mark in front of Triad was probably most of the time. They will always find a way to get past you so you learn respect for professionals in the sport.
‘Just look at Team New Zealand’s skipper Dean Barker coming fourth in his first ever A-Cat regatta, behind Ashby, Brewin and Bundock.
‘What that says is really good sailors can make these transitional changes. And now we have Tom Slingsby replaced by Grant Simmer on John Bertrand’s Triad so yet again they will be very hard to beat.
‘During the last Etchells Australian titles on the very light day when John and his team won both races, they were behind us and sailed through us. Tom four or five times stood up in the boat in four or five knots of wind, had a good look around,and they were some of the best moves I had ever seen.
‘I am one of these guys who does not mind hitting the corners, but its high risky stuff really. You look famous and the top mark or you are buried.
‘So it’s just as well I don’t call tactics on Barry.
‘Our tactician Andy Butler, who is an engineer, is also well versed in risk management and that is why I think we’ve place second or third in the last two Worlds.
‘I have done a lot of sailing on a boat in the vicinity (of Tom Slingsby) - its just some of the moves he makes and the best thing about them is that they are always low risk moves and Triad always keeps moving forward in the fleet, jumping up and they are out by country miles and win.
‘What I learned from Ireland is that is that the guys who are professionals did a good job and John’s team were head and shoulders above the rest.’
Damien said ‘I must add that Andy Butler (our tactician) is a former dingy legend in the 420s , a while back, he is an engineer and has always been precise with his tactics. If you look at our last 6 to 10 regattas I don’t think we have finished outside of the top three and that is because of Andy´s wonderful risk management skills. For me I am always happy to hit an edge, for him never, so it is interesting.
‘And to be honest in boat racing where you have a tactician, I think 80% of the race lies with the tactician’ King concluded.
The Rex Gorell Prestige Etchells Australian Championship will be sailed out of Royal Geelong Yacht Club. http://www.etchells.org.au/nationals