Etchells Worlds: First test begins Saturday

Published on October 23rd, 2015

Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club’s Kellett Island boatyard and hardstand areas are a hive of activity this week, with registration and measurement underway for the Etchells Asia Pacific Championship and the 2015 Etchells World Championship, organised by the Hong Kong Sailing Federation and co-organised by RHKYC and the Hong Kong Etchells Association.

Racing will take place in the waters to the east of Hong Kong, near the Ninepins Group of islands, with boats hosted in the marina of the Official Regatta Partner, The Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club. The Asia Pacific Championship feature six races over three days starting on Saturday 24 October, while the 2015 Etchells Worlds get underway with a practice race on Sunday 1 November, followed by nine races over six days (Nov 2-7) to decide the Etchells World Champions for 2015.

Fast, sleek and stable, the Etchells was designed and built in 1966 by Elwood Widmer ‘Skip’ Etchells (1911-1998), a boat builder and naval architect from Old Greenwich, Connecticut. The International Yacht Racing Union’s search for a new three-man Olympic-class keelboat was Skip’s inspiration for the Etchells design. Having worked for renowned classic boat builders Sparkman & Stephens early in his career, Skip combined his aesthetic sensibilities with his natural prowess for building fast one-design craft. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the commencement of the design of the boat that would become the Etchells.

While the design was ultimately trumped by the Soling as the next Olympic class, the boat was warmly received as a new one-design racing class with Fleet 1 being inaugurated in Long Island Sound in 1968. Today there are more than 40 active fleets worldwide campaigning some of 1,423 Etchells built so far. Twenty-nine of them are registered to the Hong Kong fleet.

An entry list of 43 Etchells will be competing in Hong Kong over the next two weeks, featuring many of the world’s top international Etchells sailors. These include past Etchells World Champions, past Olympians and current America’s Cup sailors. The vast depth of experience and talent that underpins the International Etchells Class makes it one of the most competitive one-design classes on the water today.

Past Champion skippers in Hong Kong this week include Marvin Beckmann from the US, helming The Martian and Dirk Kneulman from Canada helming New Zealand entry The Horn. Andy Beadsworth will be crewing for Seamus McHugh on No Dramas and Stuart Childerly, from the UK is listed as crew for Jeremy Thorp on Phan.

Hong Kong is well represented with 15 entries. Longtime local Etchells campaigner Mark Thornburrow is active on the international circuit assisted by Australian double Olympic gold medallist, Malcolm Page while current Hong Kong Fleet Champion Peter Backe will be looking to take his form into the international arena on Jezebel with RHKYC Rear Commodore Sailing, Anthony Day, as crew.

Since a crew weight limit was brought in for the Etchells and the maximum crew number lifted from three to four, the boat has become more popular with female sailors. The 2015 Etchells Worlds is no exception with a total of over ten women competing including skipper Jeanne-Claude Strong on Yandoo XX, still fresh from her win in the Australasian Mid Winters in June this year.

Event website: 2015.etchellsworlds.org

Report by RKHYC media

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