It’s the main game for the Etchells class in 2012; the Etchells World Championship, to be held offshore of Sydney from the 16th to 25th February.
At the close of entries 73 skippers have registered to participate in the championship hosted by Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron as part of its Sesquicentenary celebrations.
And the game is wide open with defending world champion, Bill Hardesty, confirming last week that he will not be in Sydney to defend his title. This is good news for Australia’s Noel Drennan who finished second to Hardesty in last year’s World Championship and who was cautiously looking forward to the challenge of again racing against Hardesty in Australian waters.
Both competed against each other in the Farr 40 World Championship held offshore of Sydney in February 2011. But racing Etchells in these conditions is a different matter. 'We would have liked to race against Bill through a range of conditions. In San Diego we raced against him in very similar conditions, eight to 11 knots. Prior to that regatta we had a couple of windy days where we felt we had good speed against him and we were pretty keen to see if that still matched up in Australia. We were very confident it would have,' Drennan said.
But with Hardesty out of the picture Drennan believes the door is open to a relatively large number of competitors. 'In San Diego there was probably four or maybe five that were, if you lined all the boats up, sailing at a regatta winning pace. The Worlds in Sydney will see that number somewhere between 10 and 15 boats. You won’t always be the fastest, but through a range of conditions it is going to be a pretty broad spectrum of people.'
Of those broad spectrum, Drennan, again cautiously, has identified a few that he will be keeping a close eye on when it comes time to line up on the race course. 'There are the obvious ones like John Bertrand and Vince (Brun). There are a multitude of other guys we will also be looking at - Tom King, David Clark, Cameron Miles, Damian King who has a fantastic record in previous Worlds, Jud Smith, Ante Razmilovic – they are all well accomplished in Etchells Worlds and its sounds like quite a few of them are doing a fair bit of work sailing-wise in Sydney.'
The key differentiating factor Drennan has identified is being familiar with the Sydney offshore conditions, '… because when you are sailing in Sydney you just know to expect quite varied wind and sea conditions. You can get a southerly with a set from the north and it’s as rough as you are ever going to sail. Next day it can go around to the north-east and be quite smooth. Nobody can really predict what the week’s going to be like.'
Earlier this month Drennan took out the Victorian Etchells Champion trophy, a result he considers a good start to the final part of his team’s World Championship preparation program.
For the next month Drennan and his crew of Anthony Nossiter (middle) and Will McCarthy (bow) will be training intensively. 'We have been out and had a few weekends and weekdays sailing and training against Graeme Taylor, Dave Clark and Doug McGain. At the end of this month I am going up to Sydney to spend a full week sailing with various different people. We will be doing more sailing than what we did prior to San Diego.
'I think it (Sydney) is going to be more about boat speed. It will be get the start and then hold your lane for quite a long period of time and get to one side of the course whereas in San Diego there were quite a few wind shifts on each of the first legs so that came into more than what I think will in Sydney,' Drennan said.
Racing in the Etchells World Championship starts on Saturday 20th February and concludes on the 25th.
The full list of entries is here
Etchells Worlds event website The Etchells World Championship is sponsored by Telstra, Oatley Wines, Nautica Watches, Gill, Kroten, North Sails, Barz Sunglasses, Hamburg SUD, Jackson Shipping, PredictWind and Yachting NSW Boat Insurance.