At the close of entries for the Zhik Etchells NSW State Championship, 53 crews comprising outstanding talent from Olympic, America’s Cup, world championship and Etchells class ranks will contest the event.
The eight race offshore championship is being conducted from 17th to 20th November by Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club at Pittwater.
Heading the entry list are five former Etchells class world champions; Colin Beashel (1995 and 1993), John Bertrand (2010), Peter McNeill (2004), Cameron Miles (1999) and USA’s Jud Smith (2006). Defending world champion, Bill Hardesty, is yet to enter even though he has previously indicated his plan to compete.
A few other key entries in the championship are Hong Kong’s Ante Razmilovic, second to Bertrand in the worlds in 2010, 49er class 2008 Australian Olympic team member Gary Boyd, Sydney to Hobart winning skipper Mark Richards, 470 class 2000 Australian Olympic team member and gold medallist Tom King and New Zealand’s former Etchells national champion Alastair Gair.
Colin Beashel is a surprise return to the Etchells class having not sailed the class, as far as he can remember, since his two world championship wins and a second place in Hong Kong in 1997. He has also retired from his Olympic Star class program with an exceptional six Olympic Games and a bronze medal in 1996 under his belt. In retirement Beashel has been busy with his boat building business, dabbling in boat racing and most recently competing in the Star class 100 year anniversary regatta.
Lured back to the class by his mate, North Sails Australia chief Michael Coxon, with the opportunity to sail with his friends and fill in for Vince Brun who could not make the trip down under for the State championship, Beashel said he has jumped back in for a bit of fun. 'The States are here, in my backyard. Michael was looking for someone and Grant (Simmer) was there so I thought it sounded like a bit of fun, so let’s do it. There are no aspirations. We will see how badly we get beaten up. It would however be nice to finish in the top ten,' Beashel said.
Racing offshore of Barrenjoey will not be a problem for local-boy Beashel, but getting back into sync with the quirks of the Etchells may be a challenge. His biggest issue he said will be starting and getting a handle on the boat’s acceleration and de-acceleration. He has spent the last two weekends focusing on these issues trying to remember what it feels like.
Joining Coxon and Beashel will be Grant Simmer, another great Australian sailor well-known in the America’s Cup and international offshore racing scene. 'When Grant heard about the program he said he would like to sail. I thought he was racing with Bertrand. He said ‘no, I only get to do the training with them then he kicks me off for some bloke called Tom’,' Coxon chuckled.
It is unclear at this time who is going to do the bow for this regatta. Simmer is claiming Coxon should do it as Coxon is the younger of the two, by four months, and their fourth crew member is too short to hop up.
That fourth team member is 14-year-old sailor from Avalon Sailing Club, Michael Koerner. 'He is a good little sailor and he weighs 48 kilos. He and his mum are very excited that Michael will be going sailing with Colin Beashel and Grant Simmer,' Coxon said. Their first race together is going to be Friday.
Regatta Director, David Ritchard is excited by the entry numbers and the possibility of another one or more.
'Bear in mind we have five past world champions, that is a pretty good line-up. It isn’t going to be easy to win this one. We also have other good sailors like Jake (Gunther) and other guys who are right on top of the pace at the moment so I think it is going to be a tough event.
'With the support of our sponsors - Zhik, North Sails, Pacesetter Yachts and Wetton Signage Group – and some kind weather, we are expecting a really great regatta,' Ritchard said.
The event website is http://www.rpayc.com.au/etchells-states