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2020 Etchells Australian Championship at Royal Brighton Yacht Club - Day 1

by John Curnow 8 Jan 01:52 PST 8 January 2020

After weigh in and all the documentation comes the initial briefing, and then the practice race. Day One of the 2020 Etchells Australian Championship from the Royal Brighton Yacht Club (RBYC) on the shores of Port Phillip was a sombre time in terms of the bushfires that have ravaged the country, and yet it also very much displayed that uniquely Australian essence of digging in and having a go.

This was no more evident than with the tremendous donations made either directly through the webpage, or for the many who have responded to Sailors for Relief, by placing sails up for purchase with all the proceeds going directly to the appeal. Additionally, raffle tickets for the brand new North Sails jib have been a frequently purchased item from the café and bar. If you are inclined, you can assist those in need by making a tax-deductible donation here - fundraise.redcross.org.au/fundraisers/niesjehees. You can also speak with Class Secretary, Niesje Hees, about finding a new home for your used sails as part of the overall programme this week. Already, $933 has been raised, with more events to come during the course of the regatta.

Huey, the God of Wind, was also keen to ensure the sailors coming out for the race were set for a big Championship, and offered up 20 knots from the Sou'west, and typical Port Phillip chop of 1 to 1.5m that was distinctly sharp by race's end. Crews did two windward returns to a range of 1.6nm on an axis of 195 degrees, with a work back to windward for the finish. Clearing the cobwebs seemed to be a priority for all, and getting used to all the new sail numbers was a test for media and officials alike.

Reigning Australian and World Champions, Iain Murray, Colin Beashel, and Richie Allanson recorded the win, with a very fast finishing John Bertrand, Noel Drennan and Jake Lilley just one length behind. All were smiling on the trip back to the quay, and once there, set about rinsing boats, gear and sailors all, after their thorough pounding in the chop.

International Etchells Class Association of Australia President, Mark Roberts, said once ashore, "Good to see so many of the boats out for the practice race. It was a nice hit out in a lovely breeze, with a good course set by Race Management, and the competition was hot."

A lot of the smoke haze that had been around earlier in the week had cleared, but there is certainly a true smorgasbord of delights to come from nothing from anywhere, to plenty from two directions. This will certainly mean that the new 2020 Etchells Champion crew will be masters of many conditions.

One person who may not have needed to shake any cobwebs out was the Principal Race Officer, Mark Taylor, for he has just completed the Finn Gold Cup here at RBYC. "A good race, nice conditions, relatively stable winds, good practice for us, and for those crews that hung in there until the end, a great race nearly bang on target time of 80 minutes. The waves were certainly steep towards the end, so it was bumpy at the weather end."

"We are set to work with what gets delivered tomorrow, as it is soft for the bulk of the day. We are probably most optimistic about flying the Answering Pennant. At this stage with the forecasts we have there is no point in bringing racing forward. We will be here at 1300hrs, anticipating that we will have to wait a while. It is possible that we will have some racing late in the afternoon, but we do not want people waiting around here all day if it is not going to happen. So we will need some fairly pretty good evidence that it will arrive by 1600 to 1700hrs to make it all worthwhile", said Taylor in closing.

Starting from Thursday morning, Johnny Rodgers will be conducting morning and evening coaching sessions for the Corinthian crews. This initiative by the Class Association is aiming to provide similar coaching conditions that the profession crews enjoy, as Johnny will be there with them for the whole day, including observing from the water. Rodgers is a renowned coach at Olympic through to Youth level, across Australia and New Zealand for 25 years now.

Rodgers commented about the role, "This is fantastic, and I think it is a really good thing to do. It is all about helping those sailors who do not have the big budgets and resources. Hopefully we can provide some insights and tips along the way. I like to play it low key, with some strategy discussion, and also look at how important your headspace is to doing well. How the mindset works is a crucial component to achieving your goals. It will be interesting to see how this is taken at the Corinthian level. I'm for up good honest feedback, so we'll know pretty soon."

Results after Day 1 can be found here.

Many thanks to all the volunteers and officials from the Royal Brighton Yacht Club who are making the racing possible. We will be here, and also on the Australian Association Facebook page.

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