Today was registration day for the 55 boat fleet competing in the Zhik Etchells NSW Championship at Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club as the Australian and international one-design sailors rolled into Pittwater.
Throughout the day the clouds hung low over Pittwater and the rain slowed the progress of boat preparations. A few teams headed out in the light breeze looking to settle their nerves and get a feel for the offshore course.
The chatter around the hardstand and while waiting to register was primarily focused on the weather forecast and weighing in under the limit.
Principal Race Officer, Stephen Merrington, is expecting a good mix of breezes for the three-day regatta. The Met Bureau is forecasting for Friday a south-east, 10 to 12 knots. On Saturday the breeze is expected to swing to the north-east and up to 15 knots. Sunday should then see a north-west kick in. 'I don’t think there will be too much swell. We might get a bit out of the nor-easter, but the local guys will sort that out and the visitors will get to know it,' Merrington said.
John Bertrand concurred with Merrington’s prediction. 'It’s going to be a mixed bag of weather. Tomorrow is going to be light and from what I understand Saturday will be quite fresh nor-easter. This is going to be a great work-out and build-up for next year’s World Championship. It actually feels a little bit like a World Championship now. We have boats in from Hong Kong and from New Zealand. It is terrific with 55 boats registered.
'The competition is going to be fierce and I am looking forward to it very much,' Bertrand said.
Triad’s Nathan Outteridge was lucky to be able to weigh in fully clothed - Zhik Etchells NSW State Championship 2011 -
Back in the registration room and Bertrand’s new crew member for this championship, Moth and 49er class World Champion Nathan Outteridge, stepped onto the scales, with jacket and jeans in tack, taking the Triad team to a comfortable margin under the allowable maximum of 285 kilos.
Other teams were not so lucky. The list of methods the sailors have used to meet the weight limit has been creative and in some cases unprintable. Brisbane’s David Rose and crew spent the last couple of hours of their over-night drive south to Pittwater with wet weather gear and heater up in hope of dropping just one more kilo.
Sydney’s Stephen Ingate virtually stopped eating for the last four days. 'It’s amazing what you can do when you need to do it. I think our total weight was about 16 kilos over last Sunday. We have weighed in, so now, I am going to eat.'
Pittwater skipper Mark Richards, who is taking a break from his Wild Oats Sydney to Hobart race preparations, was seen dashing off to the Fitness First steam room for a tilt at tossing off 3 quick kilos.
Other crews headed off to the club gym to put some time in on a rowing machine while others sought out the nearest sauna.
The Zhik Etchells NSW Championship has attracted four international entries – Hong Kong’s Mark Thornburrow and Ante Razmilovic, Singapore’s Jervis Tilly and New Zealand’s Alastair Gair.
Thornburrow has kept a low profile around the hardstand today. Asked what he and his team expected out of the State championship, he coyly noted they had achieved a top ten result in the last three major events. One more top ten result will be a welcome addition in their world’s preparation program.
New Zealand’s Gair has been off the water since the Mooloolaba winter championship of June last year where they took out first place. 'The big thing for us this weekend is really to get tabs on where we are and what we need to work on for the next couple of months. We are going to have a good time here, but also get what we can out of the whole weekend,' Gair said. Known for his aggressive approach to start line and rarely shy of the competition, Gair is unlikely to be taking it too easy even though he may think he is a bit rusty. 'I am sure we will make a few mistakes through the weekend, but that is why we are here.'
The Etchells NSW Championship 2011 is sponsored by Zhik, North Sails, Pacesetter Yachts and Wetton Signage Group.
The full entry list can be found on the event website http://www.rpayc.com.au/etchells-states