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No winter napping for Japanese Etchells sailors

by Tracey Johnstone on 27 May 2008
Wataru Sakamoto racing the J24 Siesta in J24 World Championship Wataru Sakamoto
Japanese Siesta team skipper Wataru Sakamoto will lead the way for future Japanese Etchells sailing when he showcases his talents in next month’s Musto 2008 Etchells Australian Winter Championship.

The Musto winters will be Sakamoto’s first time on an Etchells.

'There are no Etchells here in Japan. We wish to have the opportunity of importing Etchells to Japan because we have heard so many wonderful reports of this class at various events,' Sakamoto said.

There are currently 11 nations with active Etchells fleets. An active fleet in Japan would be a welcome addition to the country list.

The development of 28-year-old Sakamoto’s sailing skills has followed a fairly traditional path. He started sailing in Japan at age eight racing Optimists, then went into the larger Laser. For the past six years Sakamoto has campaigned the Siesta team’s J24.

In this tough-competition class Sakamoto has excelled in home waters of Japan and internationally. His best performance over the last three J24 World Championships was a second place in the 2006 worlds held on Port Philip Bay, Melbourne.

Sakamoto and his crew of 33-year-old trimmer Daichi Wada and 28-year-old bowman Yasuhiro Okamoto are looking forward to enjoying the Sunshine Coast. 'We are also attracted to the winters due to the beauty of the town and the ocean just out of Mooloolaba which made us decided to participate in this regatta.'

They will be competing in a huge Etchells fleet on the waters off Mooloolaba from 6 to 8 June. Joining Sakamoto on the water will be New Zealand skipper Alastair Gair along with former Etchells world champions Cameron Miles and Peter McNeill, and America’s Cup legend John Bertrand.

Sakamoto, with the help a charter boat from the Gold Coast Etchells Fleet and a good set of sails from Peter McNeill of Doyle Sails, has the equipment and skills to make a mark on the winter championship.

His participation in the Musto winters will be greatly helped by a team of supporters including Gold Coast Etchells skipper Greg Forgan-Smith, in charge of logistics, and another Gold Coast sailor, Genzan Kosaka, looking after interpreting.

When not chasing the J24 regatta circuit, Sakamoto has been busy developing his match racing skills.

His first international match race regatta was the Grade 1 New Zealand match racing cup in 2006. 'It was a great and precious experience to participate in the 2006 match. I was just a crew at that time, but racing on the same water with Chris Dickson and Dean Parker was such a wonderful and inspiring experience for me though our performance was poor.'

Extraordinarily, only a matter of a few days after competing in the winter championship, the two-time national match racing champion and his team will travel to Korea to compete in the Korea Match Cup which starts on June 10.

Last week he competed in the qualifying regatta. His team’s win assured him an invitation to compete in the cup. The Korea Match Cup is part of an international match racing circuit with participation on an invitation-only basis. Sakamoto will be competing against eleven other match racing skippers, seven of which finished within the top ten places at the completion of last year’s international match racing circuit.

Sakamoto does not see the Musto winter championship as a one-off Etchells experience.

'The 2009 World Championship regatta is the great target and we will be doing our best toward this awesome target.' The 2009 Etchells World Championship will be held in Melbourne.

For more information on the regatta click here to go to Musto Etchells Winters

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