Bill Hardesty regularly competes in high-profile classes and events, but when it comes to competing equally against his peers, he chooses the Etchells class.
by Tracey Johnstone
San Diego born, the 36-year-old dual Etchells World Champion, recognised very early in his sailing career that Etchells class racing was the right choice for where he lived and the level of sailing he wanted to pursue.
'I grew up in San Diego where we have a pretty large fleet. It was always the class to be racing in. As I got older and it was time to get my own boat going, it was just a natural fit. The beauty of the Etchells is that you can make the old boats go as fast as the new boats and that is what keeps the fleet strong in a lot of areas.
'To get the best sailing in San Diego you need to do what everyone else is doing which is Etchells,' Hardesty said.
Hardesty plans to be in Sydney in February 2012 to defend his most recent Etchells World Championship title which he won in San Diego in June this year.
'We are sorting through a lot of things at the moment, both shipping and crew. One of the things in the planning is deciding if I ship the old boat, 979, or do I try and get a new boat and work with one of the builders on getting that done and maybe selling it in Australia or even chartering a good boat down there.
'My crew is probably going to the same as San Diego, that is Steve Hunt and Mandy Markee, and one more possibly from Sydney. Or, I might bring back my 2008 Worlds winning team.'
Ian Williams in imperious form during qualifying at St Moritz Match Race Loris von Siebenthal/St Moritz Match Race
Hardesty hopes to be in Sydney with his team in November for the NSW State titles prior to competing in the final event of the World Match Racing tour. He has been a regular tour team member for the British skipper Ian Williams rejoining his GAC Pindar team in 2011. The Williams team is currently placed first on the leaderboard.
The San Diego skipper is not a Sydney novice. Having raced as tactician aboard Flash Gordon for the Farr 40 World Championship 2011, Hardesty has already experienced the offshore racing conditions of Manly Circle and February winds, both are likely to be important components of a successful Sydney Etchells Worlds campaign.
But before Hardesty gets to race his Etchells in Sydney, he will be competing as crew in the Argo Cup World Match Racing Tour event in Bermuda in early October, on the Farr 40 Flash Gordon in Chicago, on a Melges 32 and spending a few short moments enjoying his cruising yacht which he keeps in Panama.
Back on the Etchells however Hardesty will be on the helm, a position he relishes. 'When you crew on some of these other boats you start to lose some of your skills because you are not driving. Most professional sailors grow up driving, at some point, dinghies or whatever, then they start crewing on big boats and they never really get back into their own thing. If you look at the guys who are really on the top, they always have their own program. The Etchells ensures I keep my hand in steering.'
The Etchells World Championship 2012 will be conducted by Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron in conjunction with the Sydney Etchells Fleet from February 16th to 25th.
The Etchells World Championship is sponsored by Hamburg SUD, Gill and PredictWind.
Event website http://www.etchellsworlds2012.org/worlds/
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9:15 PM Sun 18 Sep 2011 GMT
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