Etchells World Championship Unaffected by Fire

Published on February 17th, 2016

When a fire on January 25 broke out near the Medina Boat Yard in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, the blaze spread quickly to the boats in storage. The destruction included more than 30 boats, 17 of which were members of the UK Etchells Fleet, the same fleet scheduled to host the 2016 Etchells World Championship.

Despite the devastation, fleet captain David Franks reports that the championship will be unaffected by the incident.

“We’ve lost more than half the Cowes fleet in the fire,” reports Franks. “However, there is a lot of very good news coming out of it. David Heritage’s new build factory is fine and he is currently building eight new boats, which he is now stepped up to 12, which is fantastic.

“The second piece of good news is that there’s been a real pulling together throughout the world, and I have now got equivalent replacements, for each of the active sailors in the fleet, who have lost their boats. So we have a strong plan for each and every owner, to the point that I don’t expect anybody to lose a race, let alone a regatta. It’s become a bump in the road, and not a big dip.”

Steve Benjamin, Former Olympic medallist, current US Sailing’s Rolex Yachtsman of the Year, current Etchells North American Champion and second in the 2015 Etchells Worlds, has confirmed his participation.

“In America, we felt the shock to the Class that fire caused but it’s incredibly positive that the boats are being replaced so quickly and fleet will probably be stronger than ever with all the new builds coming,” Benjamin said. “I know of four American teams coming for certain and we are expecting about ten or more, any of which are certainly capable of winning the Worlds.”

At least 65 boats are expected with 40 boats from overseas. Racing at the world championship will include a galaxy of stars including the current world champion Skip Dieball and Jon McClean. Eight previous Etchells World Champions are also expected including John Bertrand, Andy Beadsworth, Jud Smith, Dirk Kneulman and Andrew Palfrey, Bill Hardesty, and Marvin Bechmann.

Notable sailors that will also be competing include two outstanding female helms: Jeanne-Claude Strong, current Etchells Australasia Champion, and Shannon Bush, top female helm in America. Past Dragon World Champion, Olympic and Whitbread Round the World sailor Lawrie Smith has confirmed his participation, as have Olympic medallist, Ossie Stewart and Eddie Warden Owen, Chief Executive of Royal Ocean Racing Club and former top ranked sailing match racing champion.

The 2016 Etchells World Championship, hosted by the Royal London Yacht Club, will be held in Cowes from September 5-12, 2016. For more information visit: 2016.etchellsworlds.org

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