Former world champion Jud Smith showed his helming skills sailing with the Sydney International Etchells class fleet racing yesterday on Sydney Harbour.
Despite a 24 hour flight delay and an earthquake near San Francisco, plus a 5.30am arrival in Sydney, Smith, from Marblehead (USA) steered Mark Johnson’s Roulette into third place in the opening race of the Sydney fleet’s world qualifying mini regatta, conducted on the offshore Manly Circle course. He followed this with a seventh and a 13th place in the highly competitive fleet.
This was also the first test this summer for the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron which will be conducting the 2012 world championship for the Etchells class in late February next year as part of the Squadron’s 150th anniversary.
Smith has long been one of the leading Etchells skippers in the world, with multiple wins in the North American championships going back 21 years and a win in the World championship in Fremantle, WA, in 2006, also finishing third in 1994 and second in 1996.
He and Mark Johnson, the current NSW State champion, have had a long friendship and Smith will helm Roulette, a boat that was built originally for him, in the World Championships.
'It has been a long, long flight from Boston to Sydney,' Smith said when he arrived at the RSYS before the fleet headed down the Harbour and out on to the Manly Circle course. 'Because of flight delays from Boston, I missed the connecting flight to Sydney by just 20 minutes and had to wait 24 hours for the next one across the Pacific. Then in the middle of that long wait there was an earthquake not far from San Francisco which caused some confusion but no real damage,' he added.
Jud soon showed his skills as the Sydney fleet lined up for the first of three races on what will be the course for the World championship, sailing in a light to moderate north-easterly sea breeze and relatively flat seas.
At the helm of Roulette, he finished a close third to the Victorian entrant Magpie (Graeme Taylor and Steve Jarvin) and leading Sydney boat Fifteen (David Clark and Andrew Smith). Magpie won by 15 seconds from Fifteen with Roulette just 11 seconds further back.
Newcomer to the Sydney fleet, Doug McGain won the second heat by 20 seconds from Fifteen, with Ganesh (Glen Nattress/Steve Tracey) a close third, with dot (David Seaton) just astern in fourth place.
Third heat saw a 15 seconds victory by North Sydney Station, steered by Ed McCarthy) from Touch Pause Engage (Michael Stovin-Bradford) and Roue (Michael Martin & Malcolm Shaw).
On provisional results for the regatta, Fifteen finished with a score of 2-2-12, North Sydney Station with 8-9-1, Magpie 1-13-9, Roulette 3-7-2, Ciao 5-1-19 and dot with a 21-4-4 scorecard.
Yesterday’s racing was the second three of 14 heats to decide the 11 positions in the World championship fleet for Sydney fleet boats.
As a past World champion, Jud Smith is required to sail in only one Etchells race this season to qualify for the 2012 world championship, as has Australian John Bertrand, who won the 2010 worlds in Ireland.
A fleet of 75 Etchells from fleets in most Australian States will contest the World championships, with as many as many as five past world champions in the fleet.
'Yesterday’s racing on the Manly Circle was an excellent exercise in logistics for the Squadron and for the Etchells sailors,' said Ian Kingsford-Smith, the Chairman of the International Etchells Board of Governors, who was a race officer for the mini regatta.
'Marine Rescue is supporting the Worlds and yesterday they towed most of the 26 boats down the Harbour in line astern from the Squadron to the Heads. This worked exceptionally well with one of the Marine Rescue boats remaining offshore with the fleet.
'We have strict safety rules for the offshore regattas and, of course, for the Worlds next year. All crew must wear PFDs, and they must log in and out of the Harbour by VHF radio with Marine Rescue.'
Kingsford-Smith said the mini regatta had gone exceptionally well with no general recalls and a fairly steady breeze that got up to 14 or 15 knots, although a couple of wind shifts required moving rounding marks.
'We set a windward leg of 1.2 nautical miles for the first race, 0.8nm for the second and 0.7 for the third as the wind began to lighten off at the start, but then it came back again during the race,' Kingsford-Smith added.
However, there had been one incident, he said. As the second race was finishing Surprise appeared to be forced too close to the committee boat, Era, by another boat as they crossed the line under spinnaker.
'It’s mainsheet wrapped around a bollard on Era, pulling out the mainsheet block and breaking the boom. The mainsheet also flicked the finishing sheets out of the hands of one of the finish team and they went overboard.
'We had to call over one of the inflatables to recover the soggy paper from the sea, but all ended well for us, although Surprise could not start in the final heat,' Kingsford-Smith added.
The final three world qualifying races for the Sydney fleet will be sailed on Saturday, 3 December, also on the offshore Manly Circle.