For the 2021/22 Season, the Brisbane Etchells Fleet launched a ‘loan a boat’ program to not just grow the local fleet, but specially targeted to encourage more women to the join the class and experience what the best one-design sailing class has to offer!
We welcomed Helen Wood as skipper in September last year and got to work training her, her crew and readying the boat for the year ahead. What a fantastic season, she was just a superstar and such a valued member of our weekly fleet, thank you Helen!
We especially thank Dan Cassell for the generous use of his boat ‘Etchellence’ throughout the season!
Here is Helen’s experience of the season.
Helen Wood, Skipper of Etchellence
I was lucky enough to be selected for Brisbane Etchells’ ‘Loan a Boat’ Program for the 21/22 season, which should really be rebranded ‘Etchells Fleet Fast Track Program’, as I’ve got to focus on sailing skills and technique every Saturday, immersed in a community with a shared passion for sailing and skills to be endlessly observed in a one design fleet.
The Etchells Class has it all. It attracts the most skilled and seasoned sailors, and the allure of the class has always interested me. When the opportunity to join the ‘Loan a Boat’ Program came up, I leapt at the application – although unsure of what I would achieve from it.
And now at the end of the season, I can certainly say it surpassed my expectations, and has left me anticipating the next one. I’ve learnt far more than I expected, on so many levels. It’s the type of environment I was looking for – to sail, race, improve, and have a good laugh. Sailing every Saturday on Moreton Bay is a pleasure in itself (if you can dodge the sandbars).
For regular sailors on the bay, you may have forgotten the natural asset that you sail on. On a blue-sky day, it provided the perfect antidote for a stressful week. And in questionable weather, it reminded me that sailing is all about the conditions, which fundamentally requires skills to read and adapt. Sailors who know the bay – tides, wind conditions, westerlies – are already miles ahead when they approach the start line.
So boat handling is secondary to reading the conditions… A quirk of sailing an Etchells is the lack of engine, so tacking out of Manly harbour, and then navigating the leads, was a good warm up for the afternoon ahead, and the crew warmed up to my helming style.
Etchells are a beautiful boat to sail, easily balanced (I think due to hull shape), although not a lot of sail reduction options when the Summer storms pick up. They require technique and skill to manage the 2800 controls, strictly not that many, but many more than most boats! When you think you are on top of them all, another option surfaces!! Super skilled sailors make sail trim look effortless, but let me tell you, many options makes for more choices, and more double guessing!!! There has been frustrations during the season, some sails just don’t always work the way you want, but that’s life.
Sailing is ultimately teamwork. Whilst I’ve been getting experience helming, racing and navigating all the boats on the start mark, racing rules- its ultimately a team sport, where everyone has a stake in the outcome. I’ve introduced 4 new people to the club, 2 to sailing, and sharing the enjoyment has been a bonus of the program too.
The Brisbane Etchells fleet is a community. A group of sailors who have a range of skill levels, but all are very competitive by nature. Those with decades of experience openly shared their advice with me, and then drip fed their gems of wisdom after each race day. I felt welcomed into the group, in which the BBQ & beer post race wind downs make the Etchells fleet pretty tight.
It’s also because the boats all live together in Etchells Avenue, with easy access to the hoist, where you rig, and you can borrow a missing tool from your neighbour – or Tony’s mobile chandlery. There is also Kevin’s weekly roundup to find out what happened at the front of the fleet.
Thanks to the many, many Etchells fleet crew that have helped me out this season – especially Jason and Tony – for letting me float, sail, and fly. If an opportunity comes up like the Loan A Boat for the Season – Jump at it!
We once again thank Helen and her crew for a fantastic season and we look forward to seeing what the future brings! A huge thank you too Tony Di Betta for all the boat work throughout the season, without his drive and obsession this would not have been possible, Etchellence is in great shape.
If you would like to know more about this program for 22/23 season please don’t hesitate to contact me on 0407 160 900. We hope to continue the program and introduce more sailors to Etchells.
Brisbane Etchells Fleet Captain