Stacked fleet at Etchells Australian Nationals

Published on January 12th, 2015

Adelaide, Australia (January 12, 2015) – They are of course the instructions from a Rugby Union Referee when the forward packs lock horns for the scrum. Effectively, the sheer weight of sailing talent on offer out of the Royal South Australian Yacht Squadron (RSAYS) this week for the 2015 Etchells Australian Championship (Jan. 12-16) is a lot like that, albeit that there would indeed be multiple scrums going on.

Living sailing legend, John Bertrand AM is there, as too Roger ‘Hicko’ Hickman, who just hoisted the Tattersall’s Cup aloft after winning the 2014 Sydney Hobart. Former Etchells World Champions, such as Peter McNeill and Cameron Miles are there and then celebrated young guns, like Matt Chew have all arrived with arms wrapped around fellow crew members, new stops in their boots and perhaps even taped ears to show not only intent, but real desire to take out this coveted title.

Changeable weather is very much the norm for South Eastern Australia at this time of year. This January has proven to be no different. In fact, it probably has cemented the notion even further. A large tropical storm up of the North of Western Australia has been utilised by a low-pressure trough down South to provide lots of warm, moist air, heavy precipitation and sometimes aloof winds.

Musto Australasia CEO, David ‘Ollie’ Oliver probably summed that up best by commenting, “It’s all very tropical presently and it looks like we’re in for a rainstorm, so I hope it doesn’t ruin tonight’s BBQ. The RSAYS is my home club. I race my Ker 11.3 out of here and we’re delighted to be sponsoring the Etchells. They really are highlighting what an amazing array of sailing talent we have in this country.”

“We are having a daily prize of Musto gear, which will be awarded on a purely random basis, from either a draw or an on-water event that has to be celebrated. All the volunteers have been outfitted in Musto gear and the proceeds of sales of event gear go back to the club. Musto sponsor all the events and State teams in South Australia as a way of re-investing back into our great sport.”

Indeed it seems it is one very club-oriented environment, with Robert Henshaw supplying and driving the media vessel. His brother and nephew are out racing and the former has also supplied the main spectator vessel. With that in mind, it seems entirely appropriate to now go and check in on the two races that were conducted today.

Stewart Ross is the event PRO and he said, “1255hrs is listed as the preparatory signal, but today we had to wait an additional 45 minutes to get underway, as there really wasn’t any breeze to speak of. Before starting it came from 300˚ to 030˚, before finally offering hope when the sea breeze held sway from a starting point of 210˚. It built slowly, but we were able to get Race One away in 7 to 8 knots, which then finally made a real 10. That was on an axis of 190˚ and over a range of 1nm. They completed two windward/leeward laps with the downhill finish.”

“Race Two was commenced in the same 10 knots, but on an axis of 200˚ and still over 1nm. The extra leg was added so that the fleet finished to windward this time. The day was interesting for there was a lot of variation in the direction. No sooner were you about to make a course change and the breeze would return once more to its base. Subsequent to that and you would be making preparations once more. So yes, we had a do we change dilemma going on for a lot of the day, but in the end the track was fair and it provided for passing lanes that the sailors love.”

Ross added, “We have an eight race series, with four to constitute a championship and then five or more to offer the drop. The preparatory signal is at 1255hrs each day. I am planning for two races tomorrow, but predictions of a strong Northerly that then goes to the Sou’west and of similar, 25+knot strength means we may not get out at all. We will head out and have a look on the Committee Boat just before lunchtime. Two races on both Wednesday and Thursday, with the option to run two on Friday means we are confident of completing a great regatta. Many thanks to my team for a good job. They all worked well.”

So then, the first scrum half as it were to get the goods today was Peter McNeill. Together with David Gleadhill and Simon Reffold they took Iris III to the first win of the series. McNeill commented afterwards, “We managed to get breeze and do two races today, but it sure was doubtful early in the piece. It was not shifting too wildly and it is good to get off on the right foot with that win. We were second at the top mark for the first time, behind Cameron Miles and crew, who had spinnaker issues, so we went over the top of them and held on for the win.”

“In the second race we finished in eight place. We got off the line OK and on Port tack with Matt Chew et al, but could not get clean air so tacked back. They had some great boat speed and got away with good height, too. The left was not so flash as it turned out and the right had been favoured. They did well as a result of those two things. There is plenty of quality about this fleet and it will not be an easy one to win. Whoever does get up will do so to a thoroughly well-deserved win!”

So Matt Chew, Bill Cuneo, Ashley Deeks and Brian Donavan on Gen XY from Brisbane got up for the win in Race Two. “Cannot wait for Wednesday night after weigh-in”, said Chew as he partook of his meagre rations for dinner. “We did seem to have the turbo spun up today and sailed well, so we are delighted with that. Early on in the first race we were in 15th place and clawed back to 8th, so it was a good first day and well and truly happy to be in the money so far. A week of variable weather will add to the entertainment and we’re seriously here to win, but with this sort of fleet, a top three placing would be OK.”

“If it is windy we’ll be happy, but in the light it may not work for us, so we’ll just have to wait and see. Well done to Ray Smith, Mike Hughes and Alan Smith (no relation). Leading after the first day. He has had a lot of misfortune with gear failures, so it is great that he’s atop the field tonight and we hope he can be in the mix as the regatta unfolds. All in all we can’t wait, so bring it on!”

Now if you want to see engaging battles, keep abreast of the Musto 2015 Etchells Australian Championship from January 12 to 16. Social Media will inform you right there and then, kind of akin to the microphones on the Refs and TV replays.

AUS class websiteNationals websiteComplete results

Report by John Curnow.

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