When heading South means getting hot - Etchells VIC Championship

Pointy bow of the Etchells always slices through the waves. - 2014 Etchells Victorian Championship
In the Southern hemisphere, that means it is likely to be colder, but fear not, the one design action will still be hot. Following on from Gosford recently, the next wave of activity for the One Design, sees the Etchells move to Victoria. To be sailed out of the Metung Yacht Club from March 8 to 10 inclusive, this stunning location usually has breeze and it will blow mostly true, so if you think the pics look chilly, then just think of the last race at Gosford, which recently decided the 2014 NSW Champion.

Racing for the Etchells Victorian Championship will take place on Lake King, which forms part of the Gippsland Lakes that are some three and half hours East of Melbourne and around eight hours South of Sydney. The water is predominantly flat and Huey, the God of Wind, should provide Sou’easters of 15-20 knots from around 1300hrs each day.

Little wonder other classes have also found this stretch of water, with the Musto Skiffs recently conducting their Australian Championships on Lake King, too. The International Cadets will be holding their Victorian title at the same time as the Etchells. They’ll be sailing on Bancroft Bay, so with around 80 competitors, plus all the parents, the tip is secure your accommodation now!

An 18 person strong Race Management team will be headed by Race Officer, Deborah Lloyd, with Paul Pascoe chairing the protest committee, in case anyone gets too testy and ends up in ‘the room’ for a hearing. Deborah said 'I’m looking forward to the event. I was also the Race officer when the Etchells last conducted their Victorian Championship at Metung, as well as last year’s State title off Brighton. The current entry list will ensure tight and exciting racing.'
Apart from several known starters who have not yet put their name down, 19 crews have indicated their intention to race hard by completing the online entry, which you can access from etchells.org.au. It includes three four-up crews and importantly, three crews from NSW returning the favour the Victorians showed them by appearing at Gosford. Just as with the previous event, there are many names inside the list. Ones that are World Champions, America’s Cup heroes and legends of round the world races.

Swimming Australia President and former Etchells World Champion, John Bertrand AM is gearing up for an attack on the 2014 Etchells World Championship in a familiar patch for him, Newport, Rhode Island. Andrew Palfrey and Grant Simmer will be part of that campaign, but are unavailable for now. Bill Browne and Jake Newman are crewing with John and they have tasted success before as a crew, so are bound to be hungry once more. John said, ' It's going to be a great regatta. Excellent competition, plenty of wind shifts, hang on to your hats!'

Mark Bulka is quite unassuming, but this recently crowned World Champion in the Contender class also has a long history with Etchells. He said, 'The Etchells still offer some of the best racing, I still have a good boat, and a couple of my best mates; Steve Young and Stewart Nichols; who I have done a lot of sailing with wanted to go and do the regatta. On top of that, Metung is a nice place for breakfast, the pub puts on some great meals and it will be good to catch up with some old friends and foes.'

'We are a bit worried about our potential performance given that we have done no Etchells sailing this year. Hopefully we can work it out quickly', Bulka finished with. If the form of newly installed NSW Champions are anything to go by, time in the Etchells is unlikely to affect them in the slightest.

Etchells work up to the top mark in some of the fresh breeze the area is famous for. - 2014 Etchells Victorian Championship

Speaking of those NSW Etchells Champions, Magpie are definite starters for Metung. Asked whilst loading the boat on its trailer for the return trip to Victoria, Graeme Taylor immediately indicated that they would be there for sure, especially as they have not sailed the Etchells for nine months prior to their sensational and dominate win. Steve Jarvin will be crewing, but one Grant Simmer has had to return to the United States to perform his duties as CEO of Oracle Team USA. Nearby in the boat park, Peter ‘Billy’ Merrington was certainly heard to be saying that he too would be at Metung. We’ll have to wait and see if Geoff Bonouvrie and Ian McKillop will be crewing aboard Top 40 with him.

Like all Etchells regattas, it is not just about names, however. There will also be great inshore and offshore sailors like Peter Coleman, a seasoned campaigner and dedicated supporter of all things sailing, and Marcus Sill who was part of the INSX crew who campaigned so hard and well on Port Phillip, across Bass Strait on to Tasmanian waters. Marcus is sailing with Ian Crisp and Fergus Forbes aboard, That’s Life, which was one of the first craft to come out of the new moulds at Phil Smidmore’s Pacesetter Yachts.

The inimitable Rob Hanna is widely known for all his large boat exploits, but he has been a dedicated Etchellian for some time. He has indicated his desire to be at Metung, so when his name pops up on the entry list, a certain added dynamism will be also present. Now just for the name alone you have to look at Smoking Gun, where you then find it is to be sailed by Nick Gunner, Sam Gunner and Simon Gunner. Got it.

Metung will also see an all-female crew racing, with Sarah Clough on the tiller and Jayde Evison-Rose and Kate Shone crewing with her aboard, Lethal Weapon. They may have only started racing Etchells this season, but are already have the locals paying attention.

The team from North Sails are going to be present, en masse it would seem. North Sails Australia’s Managing Director, Michael Coxon said, 'North Sails will be well represented and on hand to assist with the Victorian Etchells Championship. Our mobile sales and service centre is coming along with us for all those minor, but necessary repairs for all those repairs that don’t need a sewing machine. It’s a great way to keep all our wonderful out there racing. This is a free of charge service provided as part of the goodwill that is our brand.'

'Noel Drennan, Richie Allanson, Andrew Gavenlock and I are all competing. Andrew is our production manager and recently joined the No Star crew, kicking of with a win in the Sydney Harbour Goblets, which was followed by a fifth place at the NSW Championships. Andrew, in his production role, has played an integral part in ensuring the quality of our products during the development of our new range of Etchells sails. The radial cut mainsails won the Goblets and two races at Gosford, where the top three boats all sported North Sails.'

'Noel and I have been involved in the class since the early 80's. Today, North Sails still pride ourselves on being active participants and supporters of THE One Design. North Sails will be providing daily regatta prizes', said Coxon.
Drennan commented, 'I’m coming with Boat X, which will have John Shelby and Glenn Fergusson crewing. It’s going to be really good regatta, well attended by the Victorian and interstate fleets. A lot of us have raced there previously and all are keen to be heading back.'

The 2014 Etchells VIC Championship will once more provide for close racing and a plethora of sailing talent will be on display 8-10 March, inclusive. See http://www.etchells.org.au for all the details, Notice of Race and online entry.

Stepping masts once again after the road trip to Metung. - 2014 Etchells Victorian Championship
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