Etchells Australian Nationals back on course

Published on January 14th, 2015

Adelaide, Australia (January 14, 2015) – After a day at the quay of the Royal South Australian Yacht Squadron (RSAYS), with conditions too extreme for competition, you could bet there were plenty of sailors ready for racing this time.

Winds of 15-20 knots out of the Sou’west and bright skies were just the ticket. Even a lumpy sea state was not going to perturb the 34 teams in the Musto 2015 Etchells Australian Championship, which is being sailed on the waters of the Gulf of St Vincent, adjacent to Adelaide.

The Principal Race Officer is Stewart Ross who said, “What a good day! We really enjoyed that. Two additional races in the bag now and so we are just the one race behind. Therefore we are looking at three tomorrow to catch up, which we’ll decide on the water tomorrow and then we have just the one to complete on Friday.”

“Interesting today with wind against tide, so the volunteers certainly had to keep the lunch down as they bobbed around on anchor. Every seventh is the rogue wave, which is always a bit different to the preceding six and tugs on the anchor chain that much more and in a different kind of action. The tide changed at 1500hrs to run back in and that helped everything with a reduction in the sea state.”

Ross went on to say, “For the first race of the day, Race Three overall, we set a course axis of 200˚ over a range of 1.4nm. This was Course #2, which finishes downhill, but we did have to change the axis to 215˚ before the second work to windward. Mainly, the breeze settled into the 16-18 knot range.

The starts were interesting. The first was on ‘P’, which ended up as a General Recall. We went straight to the Black Flag (BFD) over ‘U’ to help with the overall time frame for racing today, as I was keen to ensure we got two good races in. This would also be a General Recall, but one vessel did suffer the ultimate fate.” That was overnight leader, St John’s Dance… “It was a clean go on the third attempt, bar another craft being On Course Side (OCS), so two boats sat that race out in the end.”

“For Race Four we did have a clean start bar two more vessels being OCS, but they both returned, so suffered no penalty. This was set as Course #1, with the work back to a windward finish. It too was over a range of 1.4nm, but was on an axis of 220˚ by then. We had no course change during racing”, said Ross.

Serial podium finishers from New South Wales, Ciao, which is Doug McGain, Michael O’Brien and Gary Adshead went on to win that race. Apart from sailing really well, they are very friendly.

McGain commented afterwards, “A good first race for the day. Once finally away cleanly, we punched out to the right, then came back looking good over fleet. We led at the top and then every mark thereafter. It did get very close on the second beat with The Hole Way (Cameron Miles, David Sampson and Grant Crowle) and Racer X (Mark Thornburrow, Alex Gough, Malcolm Page and Mike Huang) right in there.

“Battled it out down the run to home, where we snuck a bit off them. Still plenty of races in it and a bad first day was not ideal for us, so we’ll definitely keep chipping away. Let’s get through this one before even thinking about the NSW title and Milson Goblets, which will be held on Sydney Harbour in a few weeks. We are working well together and getting back into the right sailing mindset. There are mixed results all over the fleet, so it could well end up being a last day, last race scenario. No one seems to be super-fast and there is a lot of talent there and ten crews could do this, that’s for sure!”

Ciao won at Cronulla two years ago and were second at Gosford for last year’s NSW Etchells State Championship.

Hong Kong’s Mark Thornburrow on Racer X has Australia’s Alex Gough and Malcolm Page, along with Mike Huang from the USA sailing with him. They collected the chocolates for Race Four today. Olympic Gold Medallist, Page, said of their day, “Did all right, but felt a bit lucky. The Hole Way was the stand out boat of the day and think we just got through them in both races.”

Page continued, “We are much happier than after day one, where we could not capitalise on our opportunities due to a lack of boat speed. We talked about it a lot, went back to our tuning guide and stuck to basics and then conferred after all that whilst we were out on the water preparing. It was a case of really trying to help each other. Our new main hand for this regatta is Alex Gough. He’s at North Sails Brisbane with Mark Bradford – a good sailor and I do a bit with him as part of the Kokomo programme.”

Page added, “It’s also nice for the sun to be shining. Mike Huang (expat USA in HKG) is our bowman and he’s been to Australia for a total of ten days and seen rain for nine of them (previous trip was for the NSW State title at Gosford). He reckons we are not the driest country in the world! It is also good to be able to eat after our last weigh in this morning. We’ve had burgers after racing, pasta’s on the go for dinner tonight, and maybe one sherbet to wash it all down. We are good Romans and going with the local Coopers Pale Ale.”

So after four races, which constitutes a series, but without a drop as yet, John Bertrand AM, with Billy Browne and Jake Newman on board, Triad, hold the lead from Racer X by just the one point (21 over 22). Their second, fourth, tenth and fifth places confirm that you do not always have to win races to lead and win a championship. No doubt they will be looking to remove that tenth once the drop comes into play… Gen XY is also on 22 and then The Hole Way is on 23. Others still in the calculations are The Boat, Yandoo XX, Iris III, Land Rat, Baby Doll and Tango, but it can all change and most likely will at that!

Bertrand (JB) said, “We found it tricky. In the first race we went up centre left. The right went well and even a few far left did ok too. The strong, 15˚ shifts were challenging to determine and locate. We struggled to put the jigsaw together and we’re not punching out of the blocks so well.” The blocks analogy is important for Bertrand in his role as President of Swimming Australia. JB said, “I think I may need to get my head back into sailing mode a bit more…”

Bertrand noted, “There is a long way to go, and the drop will change it all. The next couple of days will be great Etchells racing. We are enjoying it very much – it is almost like meditation. Billy and Jake are great – we work well together/ the racing is extremely close and it is just a pleasure to be involved.”

From the seven Australian titles Triad has, at least two and possibly three have been won at Adelaide, so it is good hunting for them out on the Gulf of St Vincent. JB said, “You are at one with the boat and it is a terrific feeling. I read an interview with Layne Beachley. In that, she commented that when you catch a wave, all the energy coming out of the wave goes though your heart. Sailing an Etchells is a lot like that, especially uphill where it is the wind that puts all its energy into your heart. When it is working, you don’t have to use the rudder too much, and we are simply playing with the wind, waves and sail settings. The fleet will get even tighter as the week progresses and tide reduces.”

Racing concludes on January 16.

AUS class websiteNationals websiteComplete results

Report and photos by John Curnow.

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