Etchells Queensland State titles – First Test
However there were no crafted willow and a red ball. Rather, the Brisbane Etchells Fleet kicked off the season with the Queensland State Championship. For many, it was time to return to the waters of Moreton Bay and continue to build their preparation for the 2018 World Championship. Yet there were a few who were indeed having their first test of life on board an Etchells, let alone their first foray on the race course just off Manly.
Etchellians travel quite regularly. Jeanne-Claude Strong attaches Yandoo XX to her SUV and goes all around the country, and indeed all over the globe without the trailer, but certainly knows the way to the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron. For this regatta she had regular crew in the characterful Marcus Burke, along with the immensely talented Seve Jarvin.
Yet at 50Kg under weight, there was space in the roster for one more hand. Enter Ashleigh Swadling. She is a 15-year-old Australian Women’s Optimist Champion, and also the first Australian Girl to win the New Zealand Women’s Opti title.
Swadling is currently training in the 29er, but will soon move to the new Nacra 15 Youth Multihull. Swadling took care of the foredeck as Yandoo XX collected an eighth, second and fourth place in the three races of the day to be in second overall at stumps.
Another traveller is Lincoln Fraser and his crew from, The Usual Suspects. Fraser has come form over The Ditch and showing yet again that Etchells attract youth sailors, brought his 14-year-old son, Ben, as well. “It is a family friendly Class, and that really helps. We also have Geoff Woolley on board. He is Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch’s coach, so has not sailed with us since Mooloolaba, but well done to all three of them for their efforts in Rio.”
“Tim Hannah had his first sail on an Etchells yesterday. He did a great job on the bow, especially in the gusty stuff, and I believe he really enjoyed and saw the attraction of the Class. He’s a 470 sailor from Melbourne, and we’re delighted to have him after our usual bowman, Sam Melville, slipped a disc, so will now be carrying the drinks for a little while.”
Fraser is relatively new to Etchells, having taken it up around two years ago. The former Young 88 Skipper was, “Looking for purity in One Design, a bit like my 470 days. They are a beautiful sailing boat and I got hooked on the close OD aspect after a demonstration day. The international angle was also really appealing. We are just sort of finding our way as it is very technical and we refer to our notes a lot and think about things all the time.”
In closing, Fraser added, “The hype is true. Queensland is stunning one day, and perfect the next. We do hope that the breeze will come in a bit today, but to get the three races in yesterday was rewarding. We are very interested in the World Championships here in 2018, as it is such a beautiful part of the world and they look after you. Other than that I can say don’t invest too much in the right when its bound to go way, way left, but yes, it’s all part of the learnings. The New Zealand nationals are in April and we’d love to have more Australian crews there. We are also really keen to get more Kiwis here, especially in the lead up.”
Brisbane Fleet Captain, Noel Paterson, was another to continue the youth trend. He had Victoria Pryce from North Sails’ Brisbane loft running the foredeck on, Waterloo Too. Tim Robba and Brad bell are the other members of the crew that had a pretty consistent day with two sevenths and one twelfth place to finish in eighth overall.
“Our racetrack was below Green Island and we had that Nor’wester, which we don’t really love here, especially not this late in the year. So it blew from around 230 to 280? at 8-15 knots (7-11 mainly), yet there was flat water, even if the tide is a dominant issue with this configuration. Our Principal Race Officer, Louise Davis, and her team did a marvellous job in the challenging conditions.”
“Given we thought the middle day of the weekend long event was looking like not offering much breeze, we opted to get three races in on Day One. The third day looks like delivering strong conditions, which will be a nice change. The Kiwis have been here for two regattas, and both of them have been with Westerlies blowing, so have never seen a sea breeze – so far!”
“Peter Conde is sailing with Brian Hillier and Myles Baron-Hay on, Encore. This crew sailed the 1996 World Championships off Cowes and came third, but have not sailed since. They broke their tiller extension and mainsheet at the start of the second race, so retired. A quick run back in by the RIB to get spares saw them return for Race Three, which they won, and it added to their impressive third in the first race of the day.”
Conde has won the Queensland State Championship five times since 1989. The crew are certainly sailing well and look set to make an attack on the scoreboard when racing resumes. Another who loves his racing is John Warlow on Land Rat. You can tell how much by just adding up how much he has spent on entry fees alone in the last 18 months.
Ever the card, Warlow too has gone with some added youth by bringing “…up and coming 29er champion and future 49er champion, Lewis Brake, on board. This season is looking very promising with two new teams hitting the water, and one boat upgrade for Team Tuco, ably led by Al Cowan. The new guys to watch out for will be the heavily branded team BGR (Bradley Ginnivan, Josh Torpy and Rod Pym). The rumour has it that to sail on that boat, and get a full set of BGR gear, they are first required to get a BGR tattoo.”
At any rate, together with third crewmember, Curtis Skinner, Land Rat has had a great start to their campaign. A first, ninth and second for the day sees them owning a two point buffer at the top of the leader board. Others may have shown great promise, but Code Flag U was used for the re-start of Race Two, and that meant both Bootross and Wolfpack had to sit that one out.
It may be true that if you’re not over every now and then you are just not trying hard enough, but you’re meant to get rid of that impetuousness in the General Recall. Mark Bradford, Gary Van Lunteren and Vaughan Prentice on Bootross added a very unhandy twentieth to their fifth and second places to now sit in ninth overall. They will certainly be aiming for that as their drop when a full series is completed.
Still, there are happy sailors everywhere. Marty Sinclair took the shots you see here and also commented, “There was a nice spinnaker run out to the start. By and large it was 270-290? at 11-15 knots, but wind direction changes all day of up to 30 degrees made for difficult conditions. The races all had a major split in the fleet, with hopes that the wind would go right, but it never did, staying firmly in the West.”
“Race One was a General Recall, Race Two was actually held up for some whales that came through the start line and a pod of dolphins worked their way though the fleet on the second work to windward of the same race, which entertained everyone and was very much enjoyed. There were the two disqualifications and the one breakage in that middle race, but for Race Three it was all clear.”
“It is a bit unlikely we’ll get a race in on Sunday, but there is hope! Monday may take us up to 25 knots, but presently it is 29? ambient temperature, yet the water is still a smidgeon cold”, said Sinclair with a wry smile.
So the three races delivered three winners, with Class Vice-President, David Clark, picking up the win in the delayed Race Two. The crew of Fifteen+, Will Howard, Sasha Ryan and Mark Langford are in third place overall, with a fourth and twelfth rounding out their tally so far.
The crew has literally jetted in from various ports abroad, and were in need of both food and rest. Clark commented, “Vastly different results and not entirely sure what we did differently, but we’ll take it! They make it so seamless and stress free here. It is really wonderful. We, like so many, just cannot wait for the 2018 Worlds. The Brisbane Fleet is a good team and great value.”
So it is a great mixture of age and experience amongst the crews. There are five four-up crews racing as well, which often allows for more junior sailors to get a ride. Should you be looking to have your own first test, or wish investigate all things Etchells, then start by going to www.etchells.org.au