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Etchells Victorian Championships at Metung Yacht Club - Preview

by Jeanette Severs 24 Jan 21:28 PST 26-28 January 2024
Many local yachts will be contesting the regatta, hosted by Metung Yacht Club © Jeanette Severs

Metung Yacht Club is hosting the International Etchells Class Victorian Championships from January 26 to 28, with 17 yachts entered.

Sailing in 13 fleets across Australia, and around 50 fleets worldwide, the Etchells one-design class has attracted some of the best sailors in the World for five decades.

This has included America's Cup and Olympic champions such as Dennis Conner, John Savage, Ken Read, Russell Coutts and Ian Murray who have become world champions of the class.

The Etchells was designed in 1966 by Skip Etchells, a yacht designer and boat builder from Greenwich, Connecticut, USA, following a competition sponsored by Yachting Magazine the previous year. At the time, the International Yacht Racing Union was looking for a new three-man Olympic keelboat.

The E22 Class Association of Australia was formed on 6 February 1973. The foundation office bearers were: President, Kevin McCann; Vice President, Roger Dane; Secretary, Alex Milledge from Metung; and Treasurer, Rea Franklin.

Savage Fibreglass Industries in Melbourne was appointed the first official builder of Etchells yachts in Australia.

The Victorian Championships in Metung this weekend will be a battle between local sailors and visitors, with some strong tactical racing the following boats are to be looked upon as favourites:

Metung Yacht Club member, Toby Richardson, from Tasmania, who is the current East Gippsland Etchells champion. Richardson will be sailing Jindivick, with David Rees and Oliver Nicholas as crew.

Richardson has contested 25 Sydney to Hobart races, on yachts that have won three times and taken line honours three times. A tactician, he combines considerable ocean and lakes racing experience.

Jack Abbot will be on the helm of Ireland Girl, sailing with a youth crew and his father, Nigel Abbott, who is a previous World Champion in the Fireballs class, was on board the defending yacht in the 1986 America's Cup race in Western Australia's waters, and is an East Gippsland Etchells champion.

Abbott junior and senior have borrowed Ireland Girl from MYC member, Kim McKendrick, and the entire crew are fresh from representing Metung at the recent NSW and Australian championships in Sydney.

They are supported by James McLennan and Jack Felsenthal, who have sailed regularly on the Gippsland Lakes, usually supporting Jack Abbott in The Archer.

Peter Robson has brought Playing Around 3 from Royal Brighton Yacht Club and has recruited a local young crew in Toby Conn, Bentley Conn, and possibly Oscar Forbes, who have grown up sailing on the Gippsland Lakes.

Robson has won two National championships in the UK and a European championship in Beneteau 40.7 class. He has been racing Etchells in Australia since 2019, and raced on the Gippsland Lakes in 2023 contesting the Victorian championship.

His fellow Royal Brighton Yacht Club member, Christian Boillot, is sailing Tamm Ha Tamm with his regular crew of Phillipe Charret and novice sailor Esteban Franco. The trio competed in the Australian championship regatta in Sydney in January this year and are using this regatta for more practice prior to the World Etchells Championships, in Perth in March, 2024.

Boillot has been French National Champion twice in the International Dragon class, and has been in the top 10 world status. He purchased Tamm Ha Tamm five years ago and said he is still learning to sail this yacht.

Charret is a sail maker in the Caribbean and moved to Australia six years ago, when the pair met. They competed at Metung in 2022 at the Easter Regatta, with a podium finish.

Count Boris's Secret Rendezvous returns to compete at Metung with Nick Knezic at the helm, and David Poulton and Mark Lainson as crew. Knezic is a strong supporter of regattas held on the Gippsland Lakes.

Metung Yacht Club will be well represented by several yachts, with crews who have sailed on the Gippsland Lakes for almost their entire lives.

Stephen Bull (helm), Stuart Loft and Wayne Smith will be competing in Come Monday. Bull and Loft both have considerable ocean racing experience, including Sydney to Hobart races, and grew up sailing on the Gippsland Lakes.

Their experience will be added to by the youthful energy of Smith, who has been sailing in local races for several years with Bull.

Bull and Smith are current club champions.

There will also be family honour at stake when Bull's Come Monday races against AUS1292, with in-laws Jack Bate, Peter Bate and Peter Kanat on board. Kanat is also Metung Yacht Club's Etchells fleet captain.

The Bate-Kanat combination has been pushing the crews of Come Monday and Elusive - owned by MYC Commodore Jeff Rose - in recent club races, and no doubt will take the contest up to the visitors too.

Feng Shui is a dark horse, skippered by Andrew Perkins, with Tim Hall and David Buckland bringing considerable experience on board. Perkins has contested three world championship regattas and sailed the Gippsland Lakes his entire life.

Buckland has been brought in from Royal Brighton Yacht Club and is a very competitive Etchells sailor, completing several World, Australian and Victorian championships.

Hall has sailed and raced for more than 40 years, and for many years has trimmed sails on board Feng Shui, regularly competing alongside Perkins.

Second Chance has a very capable and competitive skipper on the helm in Andrew Lethlean, and he is well supported by James Trenberth, who is probably one of the fittest sailors in the Metung fleet.

Elusive's skipper Jeff Rose will be sailing with his regular team of Rob Conn and Mark Henger. Henger is the current Australian International Flying Dutchman Champion, adding to the team's considerable experience.

Tom Russell, Mitchell Kanat and Will Llewellyn will be sailing Basic Instinct and add youthful energy and drive to their experience regularly competing on the Gippsland Lakes.

The crew of Peter Wilkinson, Peter Bull and Adrian Seymour in Apres La Mer includes one of the most capable sailors on the Gippsland Lakes, and makes this crew very competitive.

There is an all-woman team competing in the championship regatta - Sarah Clough (helm), Kate Middleton (foredeck), Pip Moore and Lee Renfree - on New Wave, owned by Kevan Pearce and Stephen Richardson.

Clough and Middleton have been sailing together since they were children. Clough is a past Australian and Victorian champion in the J24 class and a Victorian champion in the International Dragon class.

Clough and Middleton regularly sail together in women's keelboat regattas and took line honours in Adelaide in 2023, finishing the regatta second on handicap.

Renfree is an experienced sailor stepping up to competition for the first time in this regatta. In club races, Moore sailed regularly on Apre La Mer in the past couple of years.

It is a big year for Etchells racing at Metung. Metung Yacht Club is also hosting the Etchells Regional Regatta in March 2024 and the Etchells Australian Championship in November 2024.

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