14 February 2018
The Australian Etchells fleet is edging towards a world championship in Brisbane and the NSW title regatta on Sydney Harbour this weekend is an important opportunity for those crews with a worlds challenge brewing to test their mettle against some of the class’ best.
Four Queensland entries plus one each from Victoria and Western Australia are making the journey to join the majority NSW contingent in the three-day regatta, 16 to 18 February, hosted by the Sydney Etchells fleet out of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron.
A strong fleet of 41 Etchells will commence their NSW title contest on Friday, among them many former national champions and a number of world-beaters. The popular one design class has been around since the 1960s and according to Queenslander Matt Chew “has always been cool”.
For Gen XY skipper Chew and his crew Ashley Deeks, Ben Vercoe and Brian Donovan, the NSW title marks the start of their run towards a home world championship at the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron in October.
“We have kept training pretty low key and now we are doing the NSW event and then the Victorian championship. We are ramping up and planning to peak at the end. We’ll see; we are trying to time our run to the worlds,” Chew said.
On the cool factor he reckons: “Etchells have always been cool. I sail all the foiling boats but there’s something about coming back to an Etchells that levels the field. In other classes it’s about athleticism but with Etchells it’s who picks the wind. It’s very pure and simple; I think that’s why a lot of pro sailors come back to the class, to measure themselves against their peers.”
Sydney Etchells fleet captain Mike Tyquin says, “Yet again after more than 40 years the Etchells Class shows its depth of class and broad appeal with a fantastic 41 boat fleet in Australia’s largest and leading one design keelboat class.
The racing will be a real spectacle on Sydney Harbour and RSYS is ready for the fleet to put on a great regatta.
Looking at the start list I can make the case for about a dozen boats to have a claim on winning the regatta, and of course plenty of well-performing club crews will mix up the results. I am very excited about what the four youth teams from the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club will bring, I expect them to perform very well.”
Winner of the RSYS Milson’s Silver Goblets last November, Jeanne-Claude Strong’s Yandoo XX, is just one of the notable entries. Other ranked sailors include past world champions Iain Murray (Northern Havoc), Peter Merrington (Top 40) and Olympic gold medallist Tom King skippering the 2012 Etchells Worlds victor Iron Lotus he co-owns with David Edwards and Ivan Wheen.
An eight-race schedule is planned over three days and each afternoon the ‘Maillot Jaune’, or in this case a yellow North Sails flag, will be awarded to the ‘boat of the day’ with the best set of scores.
The weekend forecast indicates strongest winds on Friday – up to 19 knots of SSE breeze, SE to 8 knots on Saturday and even lighter sou’easters on Sunday.
On Friday 16 February the first warning signal is at 1230hrs, on Saturday the program commences at 1330hrs and on Sunday it reverts back to first warning at 1230hrs with the presentation ceremony conducted at the host club immediately after racing.