Hammer drops in Etchells class

Published on March 10th, 2021

The chatter at the 2019 Etchells World Championship was not so much about the competition as it was about an observed speed edge from the Australian-built Pacesetter boats.

With approved class builders in the USA, UK, and Australia, the vision of the one design class is for these suppliers to provide boats of similar design and build to these regions, but following an investigation, that’s not what had been discovered.

The International Etchells Class Association provides an update:

San Diego, CA, (March 10, 2021) – In accordance with a ruling by World Sailing (WS), the International Etchells Class Association (IECA) confirmed today that boats produced by Pacesetter Etchells Pty (Pacesetter) since 2011 from Mould 11 (M11) are not valid Etchells Class Yachts under the Class Rules of the IECA.

As indicated on its website (https://www.sailing.org/28207.php), WS has issued an Interpretation of the Etchells Class Rules, stating, among other things, that a) the IECA Class Rules require WS’s approval of moulds; b) having a Hull Certificate alone renders a boat neither eligible to compete nor built in compliance with the Class Rules; and c) simply meeting the measurement criteria of the Class Rules renders a boat neither eligible to compete nor built in compliance with Class Rules.

M11 was built by Innovation Composites Pty (IC) under subcontract to Pacesetter in 2011. To date, 25 boats have been built from M11, and have been shown using laser scan technology to be significantly different in shape than Etchells Class Yachts.

Specifically they have a longer water line, less rocker, a higher degree of bilateral symmetry, and more buoyancy in the ends. WS has already established that M11 was never validated or registered by WS.

The International Etchells Class Association of Australia (IECAA) is the owner of M11. The IECAA has steadfastly maintained that M11 boats are Etchells because they have a Hull Certificate and measure as Etchells.

Today’s Interpretation establishes that these two criteria are not sufficient. The boats also have to come from a WS-approved mould. Control of the tooling for building Etchells is the cornerstone of the Strict One-Design ethos of the Class.

Control of the tooling means that when a new mould is built it undergoes a rigorous validation process, as overseen by WS, to ensure that the hulls it produces are exact copies of the official Etchells shape, to within manufacturing tolerances. This process was not followed for M11 and has resulted in boats that are not the correct shape.

The IECA recognizes that this outcome may be devastating news for owners of M11 boats. They are victims of circumstances entirely not of their making and beyond their control. Regatta results prior to this ruling will not be revisited or revised.

The IECA is aware of the damage to the Class that this situation has wrought, especially in Australia where most of the M11 boats are owned. While not seeking remedies retroactively, the IECA is committed to working with the IECAA, Pacesetter, IC, and other stakeholders to find solutions for these unfortunate boat owners.

The IECA is in the process of communicating with stakeholders most affected by this situation, including the owners of the 25 boats that have been built to date from M11. We are working with WS to try to enact a temporary Rule Change that will allow M11 boats to continue to compete in regional and national regattas within Australia, provided the Australian Membership is in favor of that.

The Etchells is the premier one-design keelboat and has attracted the best talent from around the sailing world to compete for bragging rights as “the best” for the past 50 years. The IECA and Etchells sailors everywhere expect to move past this unfortunate situation and continue to be the Champion’s Class for the next half century and beyond.

For more information on the IECA: https://etchells.org/

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