No casualties as Etchells Australian Nationals avoids storm

Published on January 13th, 2015

Adelaide, Australia (January 13, 2015) – The fleet at the 2015 Etchells Australian Championship (Jan. 12-16) stayed ashore on day two as a hefty 30+knot Southerly buster smashes through with her elbows out wide.

For sure the Principal Race Officer, Stewart Ross, kind of telegraphed it yesterday. That’s OK, for apart from some waiting and a build up of adrenalin, all rigs are standing, all fingers are still at the end of their respective hands and the forecast lends itself to a lot of racing being conducted over the next three days in the dynamic waters of the Gulf of St Vincent. Excellent. A series will be conducted, and a good one at that!

All of that means Ray Smith, Mike Hughes and Alan Smith (no relation – Ray’s brother Gary also sails Etchells) on St John’s Dance lead for a second night. They are one point clear of Triad on six points and then Gen XY and Iris III tied on nine, with the former getting the nod by virtue of the count back. There are some terrific crews just behind them too, so a winner will not only need to really stand up to the range of conditions expected over the week, but also fend off many a respected sailing talent in the process.

Smith commented, “An interesting start to the regatta. Our intention to do this regatta goes back to the disappointment of Perth (where the boat sunk). The preparation also goes back to that point and then especially in the last six months. My family and I towed it over from Perth before Christmas and then the crew and I returned afterwards and will tow it back home.”

“The Swan River Fleet has weekly training on Tuesdays and we have been maximising that, which has contributed to our starts, which are just so crucial in Etchells. I see the Brisbane Fleet have also been doing a similar sort of thing.”

Smith then added, “If you have the right people and the right gear you should be there, but some fortune is really handy and will help to have you up towards the pointy end. I do think Etchells sailing is about reducing the number of mistakes you make and therefore you’ll be on the pace more often and maximise your options. We still love our sailing. You can’t win on first day, but you can lose it, so it is nose down and tail up from here. Mike and Alan’s input to our programme, boat speed and position on the track is simply terrific.”

Immediately behind those named before are Noel Drennan, Richie Allanson and Andrew Govenlock on Baby Doll, Yandoo XX with Jeanne-Claude Strong (highest placed woman), Nev Wittey, Marcus Burke and Tiana Wittey and also The Boat, which has Class President, Jake Gunther and crew of John Collingwood and Stuart Skeggs on board. Former World Champion Cameron Miles and Hong Kong’s Mark Thornburrow are also well and truly within striking distance, especially as the variation in conditions comes into play.

1255hrs is the time for a preparatory signal, so when at 1230 the RO calls for a briefing and it is blowing 30 knots out of the Sou’west with rough seas, chances are you know you’re going to be waiting. So it would be, but only until 1500hrs local, when a final decision would be made. So for many, including all the wonderful officials and volunteers it was time to go off and eat something. Others just had to quickly go off and check the quantum of their body mass before tomorrow morning’s mid-regatta weigh in!

Andrew Waterman is the Adelaide Fleet Captain and also the Chairman of the Organising Committee (as well as being a National Judge). “We have a 2m tide running out of the Gulf of St Vincent, which with a strong Sou’wester will stack the seaway up tremendously. Just before 1500hrs we had a look at Outer Harbor, and it was not very nice. A steady 32 knots, and that outgoing tide and incoming wind really set it up to be a boat breaker. It was 2.5-3m, but they were really short little demons. We don’t want to break boats or gear this early in the series. By 1800hrs local it will be fully flooding back and a different story, but the wind could still be in.”

“We expect it to blow itself out a bit. Currently we have one race scheduled for tomorrow and we’ll go with two in something like 18-20kts. There will be some sea state left over and going downhill will be fun! The tide will flatten out as the week progresses and will be almost nothing by Friday.”

So if Andrew is the current Fleet Captain, then let’s hear from his immediate past, the affable and charming, Wayne Knill. “We had 25-30knots from the South (180˚), whereas it had been from 270˚ earlier on and it is super lumpy. They’re sort of 2m+ with no backs, so you crash off them and wait for the noises when going uphill and then submarine when going downhill.”

“It was a good first day with an Easterly early and then it went to a sea breeze. It is also good to catch up with a lot of souls, like Don Wilson, who goes to a lot of Etchells events all over the country. We may have eight boats on a normal day here in Adelaide, so to have well into 30 is so much fun. We wish we could start the regatta proper from the end, because we learn a lot as it all unfolds. It is all part of the fun that is Etchells.”

“This is the first event at RSAYS since they put a whole new roof on and did many upgrades, as well. Everyone seems to enjoy it and the coffee truck that arrives in the morning appears to be doing a cracking business. Alas, a week off work to go sailing is a good week indeed! Ultimately, it would not be an Etchells regatta in Adelaide if we do not loose a day due to winds. We have a neap tide, once a month and it is only 20cm, where as they are mostly 2m. The wind against the tide today is what caused the steep seaway and this is what had people thinking and then thinking again.”

Wayne did five years as Fleet Captain and was ‘sworn in’ just before the 2009 Nationals that were also held at Adelaide. “It is almost a tradition here to let the newly installed Captain go straight into an Australian Championship and then let them go through all the machinations of that. Gary Dawes always sails with me. Russell Jones could not do it for his new job was not so accommodating, and therefore I snapped up Richard Hunter when Andrew (Waterman) decided not to race. They’re great and we look forward to a wonderful week of Etchells.”

Also, a big thank you and an even bigger apology. One of South Australia’s most awesome sailors, Steve Jenkins, brought to this scribe’s attention a wee mistake. Jenkins’ said, “It’s Robert Henshall, not Henshaw. His brother and two nephews sail on boats in the fleet.” Thank you Steve, may you get to surf down great waves with the kite up for a long, long time!

One of that Nephew’s is, Paul (Henshall). He is David’s son and his brother, Bruce, is not sailing with me this week due to work. As for the boat’s name (Mystery Taxi), Paul says, “Well, it is a bit of a mystery some days… Getting a 12th and 14th in this fleet is pretty good. We have got to the windward mark for the first well into the top ten, but the runs left us looking for a bit more and we could not get back into the middle of the course when we needed to.”

“Still. We have kept our noses clean. At the pointy end it is pretty well behaved and we are very much enjoying that. Our goal for the regatta was to enjoy it and get though unscathed. The Etchells is such a community and to see everyone at the regattas is terrific and it is really good to catch up with a lot of people. Sailing with the best is a good feature. Sticking with them, even if only for a leg, is good fun. They are pros and do it all so, so well…. To see some of the top climb back after a poor start is almost divine. Hearing stories from people like Hicko after they have just won the Tattersall’s Cup is sublime.”

AUS class websiteNationals websiteComplete results

Report by John Curnow.

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