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Garmin Etchells NSW State Championship - Hard not to be impressed

by John Curnow 17 Feb 04:45 PST
Magpie skippered by Graeme Taylor and crewed by James Mayo and Ben Lamb and Grand V skipper William Dragaville crew Sarah Parker, Jess Angus and Josh Marks in a close tussle to the gate © Alex McKinnon Photography

This was not as a result the final day’s racing. Even though, and as usual for the Etchells, it was actually a sailing master class. No, today, the final day in the Garmin 2019 Etchells NSW State Championship was memorable for the way the youth sailors turned it on. This was something special. For in the very last race of the series, William Dargaville, Sarah Parker, Jess Angus, and Josh Marks from the Royal Prince Alfred YC finished in front of the reigning World Champions, and also an America’s Cup living legend, who is also an Etchells luminary. Like wow!

So there was certainly a bit of time waiting around on Brisbane Waters for the delightful Nor’easter to kick in, which it did at a bit after 1400hrs, to the tune of say 6 knots. It made 8 next and then closed out at ten, but this was more than enough to get two sausages and return back to windward in on an axis of 050 degrees, out to a range of 0.9nm. The 28-boat fleet revelled in it, and the flat waters made it even more so. The 29th entry was back ashore. Havoc did not need to race, as they had done so well in the preceding two days, so elected instead to become part of the spectator fleet instead.

The upside for us was that it meant we got to spend extra time with the wonderfully charming David Slingsby, who was our driver for the day, and part of the nigh on 30 volunteers who banded together from the Gosford Sailing Club in order to make this event so successful. Thank you, team. Your work yielded great results, and wonderful racing.

Yet this was not the end of the youth impact on the series. Flirtation, which is Matt Crawford, brother Robert Crawford, Lucy Shephard, and Karl Bromfield, (and BTW the Crawfords own their own boat), finished in fifth place overall, which was a direct result of a consistent set of top ten results. There is also a string of thirds in there, too.

Matt Crawford would comment quayside, “It was a good regatta, and it all went well. We are pretty stoked right now, considering we have only been in the boat for about 18 months now. We have been sailing 470s with Lucy and Karl for ages before that. So our plan is all about the impending World Championship in Perth. We got into it as it is an affordable class for us to race competitively with boats from other countries.”

“We are quite surprised to be honest., for we did not think we could be this high up so soon. It is definitely something we will continue to work on. We were in the Victor (Kovalenko) programme with Will and Mat for some time, then took a break from sailing, but missed it all too much. The competition angle was key, and Etchells was the only way to go, as it is pure One Design, close and tough racing.”

Yet the whole youth angle did not finish there, for at just 15 years of age, and skippering for the very first time, Danny Brascher from Gosford, with crew Brian Robinson, and Amelia Clough, had a standout event on Greenback. “I started out as a foredeckie on keelboat, and did a few regattas up at Port Stephens. Around 18 months ago, one of the other crewmembers from that boat asked me to come and be crew on Greenback, and something like two months ago, I started skippering. It is great fun and there really is a lot to learn, especially from everyone who is around here now. They are all so knowledgeable, and a big thanks to them all for their help and guidance. This is my first regatta steering, and it is very intense, all the starts are just amazing, even when you do not do so well, and I am certainly going to stay in the class.”

So was it the sailors’ symposium, held by Nev Wittey and Richie Allanson, where there is a free flowing of information to anyone who wants to hear that generated all the new found speed? Perhaps, but one thing is clear, all sailors in attendance walked away with at least one new thing to try. Well done to all who went, those who asked questions, as well as those who made it happen.

As mentioned, Havoc won the event. Colin Beashel helmed, with Richie Allanson and Henry Kernot as crew. Gosford has certainly been a happy hunting ground for Beashel over the years in both the Etchells and the Laser. Back at Brisbane, where he had just won the national title with Iain Murray on the helm and Richie up for’ard, Beasho indicated that perhaps he should walk away then as a winner, which was his first.

He’s now added the NSW title once more, so what are his plans? “Just try to keep enjoying everything I’m doing. We’ll see what rolls along from here. Obviously it’s been a good regatta, and it all went well for us, but t is a great boat, and the guys are wonderful. It all seemed to click at the right time, and when you are on roll, you’re on a bit of a roll… Retirement is not happening, but I have no idea what’s next. The Big Fella (Murray) will be back, so we’ll see what he takes on from here, so watch this space…”

Henry Kernot was the fortunate sailor to get the tap on the shoulder to come on board in Murray’s absence. He’s been around the MC38s a bit, as well as Doug Flynn’s Etchells, Wobbegong. “Richie is a good as anyone in Australia for sailing Etchells, and you can always learn something off him. Sailing with Colin is an absolute pleasure. The two of them are such gentlemen on the water, and it has been such a relaxed couple of days out there.”

“I got eased off Wobbegong as we had a weight issue, and it was a pretty good ease as it turns out. Everyone who comes to sail Etchells does so because the best are all here. The boats are tricky and they’re tough to get right. People may do different things on board, but the speed is always nearly identical, which makes for great racing, which is what everyone wants. Yes. Ultimately everyone finds Etchells, but I really think what RPAYC are doing with the youth programme is great.” (Remember Kernot is only 26, which is why Havoc was not in the Grand Masters division this time.)

“Some mates and I got an opportunity to borrow a boat in Brighton a few years back, and it was this that allowed us to develop, without any pressure, and build our confidence. You can set up the rig, fiddle with all the controls, so only you can be held accountable, and sort it out for yourself. This is the kind of thing that really works.”

Gosford really turned it on, with a full compliment of races for the championship, and some awesome weather. Gosford and Class stalwart, Don Wilson, who travels to so many regattas around the country, commented, “Thanks to Peter Walsh, (PRO), who got in four races on Day One to have us one race up, then followed up with three more on Saturday, and then waited patiently for the right breeze to run the final one today. A great Nor’easter it was, too! Signature Gosford weather. The volunteers did everything, gave up their fleet racing on the Saturday, and all that was asked of them got done. Nice one, and thank you.”

In closing, the focus can be given to Peter Walsh, who led the team from the Gosford Sailing Club that made it all happen. “It was a great advantage to get four in on the first day, so making use of the pressure that was there certainly was beneficial, and this meant the regatta flowed nicely and afforded all eight races to be run and give us that all-important complete series.”

“Sunday was always going to be challenging in terms of forecasted late breeze, and that eventuated, but with the Sailing Instructions clearly stating no start after 1500hrs, it was fortunate to be only looking and needing to get just the one race away ahead of time. The picture looks like this – eight starts, eight results, and all done under the ‘P’ flag, without a ‘U’ or Black appearing. We had a couple of individual recalls, and they all got back in the game, and keep sailing, which is what it is all about. I had a great team behind me, and that is so important.”

Next up for the Etchells is the Victorian State Championship out of the Royal Geelong Yacht Club from March 9, with the WA title at the end of March.

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