The NSW Etchells State Championship target fleet number of 50 boats seems an unlikely goal when reading the current online entry list. But, as all good sailors know, the best time to enter an event is at the last minute, much to the frustration of an event organising committee.
Regatta Director, David Ritchard, is well versed in dealing with the complications of planning for a large number of entries and then sitting patiently waiting for them to arrive. 'Most of our Australian entries will come in late as I expect they are waiting to see if they have qualified for the Sydney Worlds. For the local sailors, well this is normal. Last minute entries happen no matter what sailing event you are organizing,' Ritchard said.
The State Championship is being organised by the Pittwater Etchells Fleet and hosted by Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club, from 17 to 20 November. Prior to the regatta 10 Australian fleets - Adelaide, Blairgowrie, Brisbane, Geelong, Gold Coast, Melbourne, Metung, Mooloolaba, Mornington and Swan River - expect to have completed their World's qualification series. The Lake Macquarie and Pittwater fleets will use the results of the State Championship while Cronulla, Gosford and Sydney don’t complete their qualification races until after the championship.
Ahead in the Mornington Fleet qualification pointscore with three wins from three races and only another three races to go, a confident Graeme Taylor with this team of Steve Jarvin and Grant Wharington will be competing. On the matter of an entry Taylor admits he is a bit tardy. 'I will be entered this month. Take it on my word.'
Taylor has a full training program planned starting with offshore training on Manly Circle in the three weeks prior to the States. 'The sailing conditions are pretty varied at Mornington. You can actually get quite a bit seaway, but a shorter wave-length than offshore. Sailing offshore you can get a wave with a swell wave underneath it, so it is a lot more difficult sailing offshore than it is inshore. You can also get multiple swell directions which vary from day to day.
'We also have a slightly different configuration that we put together for offshore so we need to check we are on the pace with that. If not, we need to work on it and make sure we are on the pace,' Taylor explained.
Geelong’s Tim Clark is another skipper who has already planned his trip to Sydney, but just hasn’t quite got around to entering. He said his team needs practice in both big fleet starts and offshore. 'Offshore will be very important to us being predominantly bay sailors down here. Geelong in particular is very flat water, flat even compared to Port Philip Bay where the guys race out of Brighton.'
Clark, new helmsman Jake Newman and bowman, Mike Schilt have one key task to perform before they enter the State title; they have to achieve a total weight loss of 20kgs. But Clark argues it will be well worthwhile handing over the helm of his boat to the heavier, but very talented helmsman. 'Jake is better than me. When you go to the expense and time of doing a World’s campaign, especially in Sydney where we are going to be up there for a number of weeks, you have got to give yourself the chance to do the best you can. While I would like to (steer) there is plenty of time for that in the future. I have another 30 years in the class, minimum.'
New Zealand’s Alastair Gair wants to be in Sydney for the State title. 'We are keen to enter the Sates … we missed Mooloolaba and we have had no fleet sailing since we were last in Australia. So this will be good to see how we are progressing.' He has one small, but beautiful excuse as to why his entry is not confirmed as yet. 'The states are touch and go as Brines and I have the birth of our first child due two weeks after the States.'
The Pittwater Fleet are offering competitors an attractive option of boat storage at Pittwater between the State and National titles at a cost of $500 and the opportunity to be involved in coaching days.
The NSW Etchells State Championship 2011 and National Etchells Championship 2012 are sponsored by Zhik, North Sails, Pacesetter Yachts and Wetton Signage Group.
The Notice of Race and Online Entry is available from the event website http://www.rpayc.com.au/etchells-states