Etchells Worlds 2012 - On day one of competition, the Aussie team of Graeme Taylor, Grant Simmer, and Steve Jarvin aboard Magpie, were back on form. Taylor finished fourth in race one and then a firm first in race two of the day to place first overall with five points.
Into second place overall with eight points came the Iron Lotus team led by Olympic gold medalist Tom King ably assisted by two other Olympians, David Edwards and Owen McMahon, and fourth man Ivan Wheen.
In third place overall on nine points was USA skipper and former Etchells World Champion, Vince Brun with his Australian Menace team of Michael Coxon, Harry Smith and Paul Westlake.
Taylor had his work cut out for him today. He was challenged by some brilliant sailing in the 74-boat international fleet.
In the first race he led the fleet at the first mark, but then slipped back as the breeze shifted and gradually built.
Clever tactics from team member and America’s Cup legend Simmer helped get Taylor back up to fourth on the finish line.
In race two Taylor took hold of the race and never let go. Brun was on his stern, but it took until the upwind finish for him to settle into second. If there had been another leg, down to the finish, the results may have been different.
After a poor showing in the recent Australian Championships, Taylor had his starts and time on distance beautifully controlled. It was then a case of reading the wind shifts, the strong set and the tactics of his closest competitors.
The first race was delayed due to problems with the start line boats anchoring in about 100 metres. Then were more problems 10 seconds out from the first gun. Another line was set and the competitors lined up again for a 180 degree, 2.3 mile beat in about 11 knots with a southerly current running at 1.5 knots.
The long start line was tricky with the low pressure and strong current. The PRO, Ross Wilson, warned the competitors to plan carefully their starts due to the conditions. It still wasn’t surprising that there was a general recall. With the black flag up for the next start the competitors then approached the line cautiously.
The fleet was finally away with a clear start. Many of the highly rated teams were sitting near the middle of the start line, near the signal boat. Taylor, after suffering from some poor starts in the Australian Championship, consciously stayed well behind the line.
At the top mark first time it was Taylor ahead of King, Bertrand and Brun. Then at the bottom mark and after the top ten or so had rounded, the sound of boats hitting each other and crews screaming could be heard clearly by the spectator craft.
Taylor explained his team performed well on the beat. 'Then Tom King and a few other guys got really deep down the run and gybed and got some good wind inside of us.'
He did loose going from first back to sixth letting in Jud Smith (Roulette), John Bertrand (Triad) and Alastair Gair (Velsheda). Smith kept the heat on leading around the bottom mark and then the top mark second time around.
'We managed to chip away back up the second beat getting back to fourth. There was lots of current out there. In terms of the pressure, we came out of the middle left both times and a couple of guys came out of the right,' Taylor said.
But the first prize of the championship went to Australian Murray Gordon’s Hydrotherapy. With an average age on board of 23 years, Gordon’s team made their way through Taylor, Smith and King with cunning.
On the final run Gordon’s team took distance out of Smith who then found himself unsuccessfully trying to keep King out of second place. Taylor also had a last mile down wind private battle with John Bertrand (Triad).
Into second was King who said he and his team struggled to get a handle on the current. 'There was crazy current out there all day. It made starting really challenging. We had cautious starts and came out clean both times. There was also some lucky calls on the shifts and excellent kite trimming by David Edwards.'
The fleet was then given a rest while the race committee set up a new start line. The upwind finish course was set at 180 degrees in the flicking 13 knots.
At the start four boats were OCS. One was James Howells who continued to sail the course and finish in third place. The others were Jake Gunther (The Boat), Peter Gardner (Vincero) and Philip O’Connor (J for Jig). The moral of this part of the story is that sailors need to remember to keep a listening ear on the competitors channel.
At the top mark first time, Taylor was in the lead ahead of Tonner-Joyce (Dawn Raid) and Peter Merrington (Odyssey). Taylor never let anyone in from then onwards.
Interestingly Smith chose to gybe away and then seemed to struggle get his kite set and boat speed up.
The breeze built to 15 knots and the swung left to about 160 degrees. By the top mark second time around Taylor held a boat length lead on Merrington, then came Brun, Howells, Tonner-Joyce and King.
King said on the second run he gybed and then over-stood the mark and just couldn’t get back. 'It was frustrating.' But for King the day was still a good one with the team placed in second overall.
For Taylor, in the second race and on the first beat, the left was definitely better. 'We led around the top and on the run. Then we gybed off and got the shift right, but lost the pressure. Billy (Peter Merrington) and Mark Tonner-Joyce got in front of us. And then we probably got a better lay line at the bottom and then got back in front of Mark. Then we managed to push to the left of everyone as the breeze started to march to the left. Billy let us get to the left of him.
'The last run was pretty easy as the shift and the current was sweeping us down,' Taylor said.
There are six protests to be heard tonight including one lodged by the British skipper, James Howells, seeking redress for his OCS in race two.
The line-up of the top ten placegetters makes for interesting reading. Four Etchells World Champions, an Olympic gold medalist, a winning maxi boat skipper and a couple of quiet achievers including skipper Matthew Chew who raced with Jason Muir and won the 2009 Etchells World Championship.