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Auric Harbour Delights

by John Curnow 8 Jan 12:06 PST

The inaugural David Forbes Shield Regatta was a huge success both on, and off the water. Named after the 1972 Gold Medallist in the Star, David Forbes OAM sailed to victory with John Anderson OAM, it is probably no surprise to find that there was also a current Gold Medallist amongst the sailors, one Mat Belcher OAM (470 with Will Ryan and earlier with Malcolm Page).

Forbes commented, “I was of course honoured to have the regatta named after myself. With all the international racing I did within the Star, Soling, 5.5m and 6m classes, the Etchells was one of my favourite classes to sail, not just for the boat, but the people within…”

12 boats completed nine races this week in some very hot racing from the host club, the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron. Indeed the winner, Jeanne-Claude Strong’s Flying High, posted four bullets on the way to their win (Overall results here Showing just how tough it was all the way along, in second place and a solitary point astern was Magpie, who posted three bullets themselves. Must have felt a little bit like Corpus Christi for them…

Sailors who are famous in the regular fields of endeavour were joined by not only Olympians, but America’s Cup legends like Grant Simmer, SailGP winners, offshore stars from local and RTW races such as Noel Drennan, along with World and Australian Champions in Etchells and other classes, think Iain Murray AM who has 12 of them in no less than three classes.

Richard Slater was the observing umpire, who was a part of the ‘go sailing and have fun doing it’ mantra of the event that focussed just as much on time ashore as time float. Indeed after one confab, John Bertrand AO was heard to say that he learned more than he gave.

Anyone who knows Jeanne-Claude Strong, the words motivating, inspirational, humorous, and generous seem a little light on. The focus she can bring to bear to the task at hand is as supreme as her joy for the sport for life. She trains many days a week, and all you need to do is keep a weather eye for the pink kite.

Strong said, “Winning this prestigious event is quite humbling for me. Firstly, to win a regatta named in honour of David Forbes - multiple Olympian, Gold Medallist, AC yachtsman, and mentor to John Bertrand over many years, (John says he is one of the most talented naturally gifted yachtsmen he knows), and who sailed with Skip Etchells in their contest for the boat selection for the 1972 Olympics.

“Secondly to win in such a fleet of top quality yachtsmen. My thanks go to my crew, who all did a brilliant job in every respect - from preparation, planning, training, race management - through to racing.”

“Kate Devereux has been sailing with us now for 10 years - we first met her in Cowes for the Gertrude Cup when she was still at University. Having qualified as a naval architect, she then made the very wise decision to move to Australia. Very intelligent, well organised, dependable, quick and agile - it seems she gets her jobs done before we know it!”

“Sam Newton is well known to every one in the sailing community, with his AC, Sail GP, 18ft skiff experience. Probably the first world championship he won was with Neville Wittey and me in the Yngling 2004 World Championship in Sydney. This was when I first met Sam - he was then 16 years old, tall, thin and already a good yachtsman with top attention to detail. He takes care of rig set up, and does bow; a top trimmer, he makes sure the boat is as fast as possible. He's also very knowledgeable on all things technical and very well organised.”

“Seve Jarvin is a world class yachtsman. He has won eight 18ft skiff World Championships and still races them, and has been on our team for several years. He runs the program both off and on the boat. He is not only a top yachtsman and great tactician, he has amazing feel for the boat. He is also a great coach for me - during the whole COVID period we trained two up, even starting off with me sailing solo with Seve on the duck in case of emergency (there were a few, minor ones luckily - just not such a good look!).”

“Each time I see Sam drop the kite I remember my feeble efforts solo, which looked a tad different as you can imagine. Hah hah. (I call these Etchells Boy Toys because they work best with someone with big muscles...) I appreciate Seve's patience in the training sessions - and he didn't even laugh once!! All those hours on the water have paid off gradually. Seve sees a big improvement from our worlds in San Francisco when I was in the groove only when going through it.”

“So apart from enjoying each small improvement in my skills, I just love being on the water and enjoy training as much as racing. All my thanks go to Richie Allanson and Iain Murray who organised the whole thing with the Club. On that note Karyn Grosjnich was a great support for the regatta, thank you Karyn.”

“The format of this regatta has been fantastic. The on-water observer was excellent, helping some understand the more difficult rules and keeping us on the straight and narrow. Richard was perfect.”

“Social events were a magnificent addition, as it enabled everyone to mix, to discuss the day's racing or to prepare for the following day, as well as to get to know each other better. James Mayo hosted the presentation dinner at his home: thank you James for a great night and for your generosity. I think the night went on for way later than this little wood duck could stay.”

“On the water it was quite challenging: very shifty, very hot and very humid with lots of gear changes - pretty exhausting each day... However Rob did a great job and we were able to race without any wasted time, and with well laid out courses. Having the three marks at the top was also good - it certainly changes the dynamics of the port approach.”

“The event was so successful that everyone was asking when we could run another similar event”, said Strong in closing. (Hint. Hint. Hey?!)

One person who had been very keen to see it all take off was former Etchells World Champion James Mayo, who along with Graeme Taylor and Noel Drennan raced into second place. Afterwards, Mayo commented, “You know the sailing is always going to be great, but the social side of this regatta really was on par with that. The ‘fireside chat’ one morning over breakfast went for an hour and every crew got the ability to add something to the great rolling conversation about trim, tactics, conditions, and set up. Certainly the final presentation set up a strong desire to be ready to go for the next event when it gets bedded down. Bring it on. Great stuff all round…”

Two-times Etchells World Champion, John Bertrand AO, who sailed with Grant Simmer (11 America’s Cups) and Mark Richards (Wild Oats skipper), certainly extracted a great amount of enjoyment from it all, and a few laughs too. Immediately after racing he quipped, “I’m delighted to say we finally got it together with a win in the final race. A nice way to pack up the boat!”

“‘One of the highlights for me was sailing the day before the regatta in a classic 16-18 knot Sydney Harbour North Easter against Iain Murray and Martin Hill. All world champions, all with our world class crews.”

As for the tuning sessions, “Inboard sheeting with twisted jibs, mainsail bladed out, boat beautifully balanced. Iain and myself were using our Australian M11 hulls, and Martin his UK Heritage boat - all now with identical rigs and sails. Two-mile upwind legs, all three boats lined up in lock step, not one boat length difference in speed between the three of us. Now that’s one design sailing!”

“Plenty of experience and no excuses on our boat. We certainly enjoyed the world-class racing. And I loved the comradeship among the competitors both on and off the water. For me, that’s what it’s all about.”

So the proof is there that gold does come in many forms other than precious and inert metals. Stay in touch with all the Gold Racing League information here.

P.S. Perhaps the final word should go to David Mandelberg who took these lovely images, “Pleasure shooting these group of extraordinary sailors sailing such a beautiful class.”

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