Future of Etchells Class in the balance

Published on January 25th, 2021

How the measurement and rules of one design class boats is managed impacts the playing field and cost to compete. Done well, a class can exist forever, which seemed to be the path of the Etchells Class since its formation in the 1960s

However, when Australian teams blitzed the field at the 2019 Etchells World Championship, an investigation was initiated to learn if the Australian-built boats were conforming to the class rules.

This process was reported a year ago but the effort was delayed due to COVID-19, with Mark Roberts, President of the International Etchells Class Association of Australia, sharing comments in July 2020:

“I do not feel anything shown to date allows one to make any kind of informed decision about whether the known differences between the three manufacturers is anything other than noise. Personally, I think that the recent success of the Australian boats in overseas events, including Corpus Christi, is without question the product of the talented people involved.”

But Andy Cummings, Chairman of the International Etchells Class Association, contends now there are significant problems in a report on January 22, 2021. Here are some excerpts:

• The hull mould (M11) used by Innovation Composites as a subcontractor to Pacesetter Yachts in Australia to produce boats since approximately 2011 has been the subject of considerable controversy over the past couple of years.

• What has emerged in the investigation of the history of M11 is that it was not approved by World Sailing at the time it started to produce hulls.

• It has recently been discovered by scans and floatation tests of boats … that M11 produces boats which have a longer water line, less rocker, are flatter in the middle and fuller in the ends. The differences are material, far greater than can be explained away by minor variances due to manufacturing tolerances.

• What is left for us to determine, and is the reason that this is such a profoundly important issue for the Etchells Class, is whether or not we, as Governors representing you, the membership, are willing to abandon the strict one-design ethos that has been at the heart of the success of this Class for over 50 years.
———
In response to Cummings’ report, Roberts digs in. Here are the highlights:

• The Executive of the Australian Association was shocked and extremely disappointed by IECA Chair, Andrew Cumming’s letter to the members of 22 January 2021.

• Insofar as it concerns mould 11, it not only presents a distorted, misleading and biased view of the facts, but is in many material respects grossly wrong.

• Since the very first boat was built from this mould in 2011, every Etchells has correctly measured. The Executive of the Australian Association stands firmly behind the boat owners from mould 11.
———
In Cummings’ report, he concludes,”I do believe that the future of the Class lies in the balance.” Yikes!

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