It is rather unexpected to also see two 12-year-old sailors joining the Etchells class, even though the class is experiencing an influx of younger skippers and crews.
by Tracey Johnstone
Tiana Wittey and Harry Smith are competitors in the 74-boat Etchells fleet contesting the 2012 World Championship.
Tiana is racing aboard Yandoo XX. Her skipper is Jeanne-Claude Strong and her fellow crew members are Marcus Burke and her proud dad and previous Olympic competitor, Neville Wittey. Neville had planned to ‘blood’ Tiana during the national championship so that she could get used to the big fleet starts, all the people and noise, but then Yandoo had to withdraw from that event. This has meant she has come to the World Championship without any prior big event experience.
On meeting Tiana she exudes a sense of quiet confidence in her place within the Yandoo team.
'Yandoo has been my family boat for a very long time. I bought it in 1996. Tiana has known Yandoo for her entire life. She knows that Dad goes off sailing and he always comes back to Yandoo. 'I think she sees this event as a great opportunity to have a good sail with Dad. And, perhaps, if she chooses to do it, kick off her sailing career.
'She knows she has to perform because we now give her jobs she must do; critical jobs such as she is the one that calls the start time. If she gets that wrong we are in real trouble. She does stuff that we really need her to do. She loves it. She just loves being out on the Etchells and she is not afraid of putting in,' Neville said.
Tiana’s school, Our Lady of Mercy College at Burraneer Bay, are very supportive of Tiana’s opportunity to race among some great sailors in a very supportive environment.
The other 12-year-old competitor, Harry Smith, is competing on board Menace with USA skipper Vince Brun and Australian crew Michael Coxon and Paul Westlake.
He has taken time out from his school studies with the full support of his school, The Southport School. He first stepped on an Etchells just a few weeks ago and was competition blooded at last week’s Australian Championship where the Menace team finished fifth.
'I was down here (Sydney) about a month ago sailing with Dad on Wild Oats. Flipper (Paul Westlake) was on the main and he noticed me and said I could be a good fourth-man on the Etchells crew that Cocko (Michael Coxon) was putting together.
'I started sailing in Optis and I am still in them. I did a bit of racing in a Laser, but it was a bit too full on,' Harry said.
Both young sailors are now part of the World Championship family. The older sailors have quickly accepted their presence around the hardstand and on the water.
The Etchells Worlds 2012 are being hosted by Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron and racing will continue offshore until 25 February.
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6:35 AM Tue 21 Feb 2012 GMT
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