Brisbane Etchells to host the first cab of the rank.

Brisbane Etchells to host the first cab of the rank.

01_Alt_Chew_TightFinish1Each Summer, the Brisbane Test is cricket’s first cab off the rank. Held at the ‘Gabba’, which is derived from the ground’s location in the Brisbane suburb of Woolloongabba, it marks both a time for change and a subject for conversation over a frosty beverage.

Our first test is going to be the LJ Hooker 2014 Etchells Queensland State Championship. It is a bit of a mouthful, so you can have a swig of the beverage right now, so as to be able to keep going. Like cricket’s version, it will be hosted at a location better known by its nickname, which is RQ, than it is by the full version, the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron in Manly. And yes, you may have another sip now.

Just as with the leather and willow, this is the first time you get to test out your form, along with that of the competition. Many will arrive with overseas form gained at the Etchells Worlds in Newport, R.I. Now having just secured the 2018 Etchells World Championship for Brisbane, the Fleet and RQ will be able to test out their systems and sailors can find out exactly what the excellent facilities, course and conditions will likely be, once that time rolls about.

02_Alt_Chew_FleetStart1So the first cab off the rank from, well, the first cab off the rank as it were, is Ozzi. The local RQ vessel is skippered by Ian Staples with Brady Lowe and Tim Haynes as crew. Embodying the wonderful esprit de corps that is Etchells, Staples’ comment in relation to be the first entry was merely, “And the learning curve continues upward!”

Now quite possibly the crew to chase is Matt Chew, Paul Wyatt, Brian Donovan and Ashley Deeks on Gen XY. This four-up crew have sailed extensively together for a few years and apart from collectively being the reigning Queensland Champions, Chew is the only person on the planet to have twice won the prestigious Australasian Mid-Winters, which are held off Mooloolaba each year.

03_Alt_Chew_CrewUphill1Chew commented, “We won last year’s title literally on the finish line of the last race. Mark Johnson from Sydney was second, with Mark ‘Squark’ Bradford and David ‘Clarkey’ Clark all in the mix, too. It will be great to have some more of that style of action. Given the number of craft parked at RQ after the Mid-Winters, it looks like it will certainly be game on!”

“Please come and be a part of it everyone. The more the merrier, and you’ll be able to see and use all the renovations that have taken place.” Chew and co are entitled to say that, for they regularly hitch up the road trailer and get the Etchells to the action on the Eastern seaboard. “It is the only real chance to see how you’re doing before the Australian Championships in Adelaide and we plan to make the absolute most of it.”

Chew finished by saying, “Our fleet has a lot of new owners and there is a great spirit amongst us all. Three days in the sunshine will be good for everyone.”

04_Alt_15WinAs Matt has provided us with a great segue into which Interstate Etchells are coming to Manly in October for the LJ Hooker Etchells Queensland State Championship, it would be more than appropriate to speak with Australian Vice President and International Appointed Governor, David Clark. “All is well here. My wife just had our second child couple of weeks ago! I had a fall at home shortly after they arrived back and fractured my ankle, BUT that has not dampened my enthusiasm for the Queensland States. I was out of my cast yesterday and will make a quick recovery!”

“I left the Fifteen at RQ after Mooloolaba, so we’re all set. Yes, we will be sailing four-up with two of our regulars and a newbie”, said Clark. Always one to keep his cards somewhat close to his chest, it will be interesting to see just whom the fourth is going to be, as it is always a talented sailor and often someone with five-ring dreams in their sights.

05_Alt_KnotEasyCR1Now if Matt and David are more than representative of the experienced end of the fleet, one Jason Hawkins is a superb example of why the One Design Class continues to thrive. A local and dedicated RQ sailor, he’d been crewing aboard the Sydney 38, Mondo, for several years competing in all manner of club and offshore racing. “With the IRC ratings not necessarily about skill, I was very interested in really learning the art of sailing in a levelling, one-design class”, said Hawkins.

“I would drive by Etchells Avenue every weekend and loved the look of the Etchells classic design and knew I wanted to get involved at some stage. The opportunity presented itself about 12 months ago and we purchased AUS 876, which was David Clark’s, Fifteen.” Hawkins will be sailing with Chris Nezmah and Brett Forster, with the latter standing in for Jim Snow.

“I had little or no racing experience on the tiller and no knowledge of the art of Etchells sailing, we always knew we were going to get flogged for the first few seasons. That has proven to be the case, but it has been a fantastic learning experience and we are gradually getting to know the boat and how to get the pace from her. When it all lines up, we can be quite competitive. It is just sustaining that for an entire race would be the challenge. However, core to our approach is that we need to enjoy the day! It is the one chance of the week to forget work, get some sun, salt fresh air, and spend some time with your mates. The competition really makes the day interesting, but you have to have a laugh and enjoy it, no matter what the result.”

Hawkins added, “There is usually only a few minutes separating the first and last boats, so there is always great competition between us, even the back markers! We always come away from the day with a minor win and tactical learnings, sometimes along with downright frustration, as we watch the fleet sail away after we stuff up. There is no room for mistakes, and Etchells quickly teaches you that every little thing matters: starts, tactics, tacking, tuning and trim – just to name a few.”

“Having recently completed the Brisbane to Keppel and Audi Hamilton Island Race Week on larger yachts, I can honestly say that being a weekend warrior on an Etchells has significantly improved every aspect of my sailing and would recommend it to every one of my big boat crew mates. Becoming a competitive Etchells sailor creates a thinking crewmember, not just a passenger.”

06_Alt_RQYSbbqHealeyChew1Finally then, we move to a man who is no stranger to tests. Brisbane Etchells Fleet stalwart, Australian Secretary and Appointed International Governor, David Healey, certainly knows a lot about the Class as a whole, and the renaissance of this great fleet. “Of course we’re delighted to have secured the 2018 Etchells World Championship, which will be conducted at a similar time of year to this year’s LJ Hooker Queensland State Championship. So if you’re keen for some early, early practice, then hitch the road trailer to the car and come to the hospitable shores of RQYS, here at Manly. We guarantee great racing and the kind of on shore camaraderie that is more than starting to get us famous. The Healey BBQ looks set to be just one of the highlights of the weekend. A good hunger is a prerequisite for this affair on Saturday night, which you’re bound to have after the first two of the seven hot races we have for this series.”

Having set all of that up it is important to note that the LJ Hooker Etchells Queensland Championships will be help the weekend of the 4 to 6 October 2014.

John Curnow

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