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AUS Etchells – Come all ye faithful.
Sun Tzu (AUS 1088) in the midst of it on Sydney Harbour at the 2015 NSW Championship. - 2016 Etchells Australian ChampionshipKylie Wilson/positiveimage.com.au

AUS Etchells – Come all ye faithful

Yes. Joyful and triumphant… It appears as though all current and future entrants are the former and certainly everyone seems keen to find out just which crew is going to claim the latter! The title on offer is the Etchells Australian Championship and it runs from January 9 to 15, 2016.

To get them all enticed, there are Port Phillip’s legendary conditions, and the terrific facilities and warm hospitality of the host club, Royal Brighton YC. Of course, and most importantly, there will be the hottest competition on display from some of the country’s finest sailors in the premier One Design Class. As ‘newer’ crews build the years of experience needed to be super competitive in this highly technical class, it is also one of the first times that an old-stayer, as such, is not a shoe in for the ‘Skip Etchells Trophy’ awarded to the overall winner.

Also on offer are ‘The Roger Dane Trophy’, which will be presented to the winning Skipper over sixty years of age (Masters Division) and ‘The Jim Annand Trophy’ that gets awarded to the winners of the Grand Masters Division. For a three-up crew the combined age is 165 years and four-up is 220 years and over.

AUS Etchells – Come all ye faithful.

Super close racing amongst the local RBYC fleet. – Etchells 2016 Australian ChampionshipDavid Staley – copyright

Two new trophies have been established and so will be awarded for the very first time in Melbourne. These are ‘The Corinthian Trophy’, which goes to the highest placed non-professional crew and then a very important addition, indeed. The ‘Women’s Trophy’ heralds the ‘arrival’ of a number of very motivated and skilful female owner/drivers in the fleet. The new trophy will be presented to the first placed female helm, and should events unfold like this year’s Winter’s Australasian Championship, then Jeanne-Claude Strong could be collecting both it and the ‘Skip Etchells Trophy’, all in the one swag!

Now the Jukes of Hazzard, AUS882, is one of the local RBYC crews who’ve been quick to get off the draw and actually enter. Skipper Brendon Jukes said of preparations, “The crew are looking forward to the 2016 Australian Championship, and have been putting in some solid time on the water over Winter. We have had some good race wins in the Entire Etchells Winter Series in Melbourne, which has been encouraging.”

“All of us have been looking to build on our big regatta experience and performance after solid top 10 finishes in recent Victorian State Championships at Geelong this year, and Metung the previous year. Our plan is to build on this by doing the Worlds in Hong Kong, with the aim that it will provide the required preparation for a solid result in our home waters at the Nationals early next year.”

They are talking 60-70 boats for the Nationals, which will be a cracking regatta and great for the home Fleet, too. Whilst delivering us the necessary top end and high-level regatta experience, the World Championships will also serve as a family grudge match. In Hong Kong, Dad, or Brian ‘old blokes rule’ Jukes, who is now 71 will be sailing on the bow of ‘Jukes of Hazzard’. We’ll be up against my brother, Marc Jukes, who will be helming, The Battler. Should be great!”

“Stuart Bloom, an old-time buddy from the Sabot days, will join the team for the Worlds. The regular crew of highly regarded tactician, Nigel Jones, and also Matthias Houvenagel will be back on board for the Nationals”, said Jukes in closing.

Roger Hickman, Dan Morrow, Daniel Williams and Kim Ketelbey on Sun Tzu get the first Interstate entry prize. They hail from the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron in Kirribilli, are regular participants in Etchells events and have previously won the North Sails jib for placing exactly mid-fleet not that long ago at Gosford at the NSW State Championship. Time moves on, and back then Hickman indicated being in the upper half was the plan.

Now it was only just last year that he drove his Farr 43, Wild Rose, to the top ticket in Australia’s Bluewater Classic, the Sydney Hobart Race. Talking with the current Tattersall’s Cup holder, the irrepressible Hickman said, “After this year’s Sydney Hobart Race I am doing the Prince Phillip Cup in Hobart with the legendary Gordon Ingate and David Giles. Then I’ll join the crew in Melbourne for the Etchells, before going back to get Wild Rose. We are going to take her up the Gordon River – it’s on my bucket list”, said the Tasmanian born dynamo.

AUS Etchells – Come all ye faithful.

Breakwater and RBYC Clubhouse as the backdrop to Triad, Dawn Raid and Tango. – Etchells 2016 Australian ChampionshipDavid Staley – copyright

“Only recently I was reflecting with Steve ‘Mothy’ Jarvin about the little things you pick up and fine tune from your time in the Etchells and how this subsequently improves your big boat results.” It is a great statement, for a part from the Tattersall’s Cup, the venerable Wild Rose has now twice won the Audi Australian IRC Division C Championship, and it has only been in existence for the last two years.

Of the 2016 Etchells Australian Championship, Hickman said, “I love Melbourne and Brighton. It is where my Etchells journey began in 2005, just before the Worlds in Perth. I was meant to be sailing big boats with Chris Dare and Andrew Plympton, but we went up to Brighton to watch the Etchells. Rob Brown was running Steampacket V and he offered it to me, all set up, so we struck a deal. I even bought my Isuzu truck for towing back then and it is still going, five trips across the Nullabor and all!”

“Dan Morrow is on the bow, with Daniel Williams and Kim Ketelbey crewing – all sail on ‘The Rose’ with me. We will seriously ramp it up for the Brisbane 2018 World Championship, for just to qualify from the Sydney fleet will be a mighty challenge.”

“I love sailing against the best of the best, and every now and then you might be lucky enough to beat them over the line as well. The camaraderie is amazing – by way of example just look at (Olympic Gold Medallist) Tom King and all the lectures he gives – we’ve used stuff from that even in the big boat. It is true that the Etchells forces us to take the intensity over to the big boat. Indeed I often talk with other big boat owners about the wonders of Etchells, but maybe its way too honest for them. Forget outright speed, focus on the sailing and every opportunity and idiosyncrasy – that’s what Etchells teaches you”, said Hickman.

Kim Ketelbey is one of many women amongst the fleet, usually as part of the four-up crews. Ketelbey commented, “We are certainly looking forward to the Australian Championship. Sun Tzu crew member Dan Morrow lives in Melbourne and comes to Sydney for special events, and Daniel Williams’ work takes him all over Australia, so we certainly enjoy getting in all the practice we can as a crew, which sometimes is the event itself!”

“When you add all the offshore work to that it becomes one busy calendar. It has all been an exciting opportunity for me. I started sailing on larger keelboats, but have been able to get more involved in One Design since my family has grown up. Roger introduced me to Etchells after I joined the Wild Rose team five years ago to do offshore work, including the Sydney Hobart Race, which is something I never thought I would undertake.”

“I love the Etchells for the close One Design competition it brings. I am on the main, calling wind and other head out of the boat stuff, as well as getting involved further for’ard at the marks. Etchells are fantastic because you are very involved and never sitting still – until you’re hiking!”

“Every minute you’re out there you’re looking for the all-important advantage. It is just such a privilege to be sailing in and amongst such an elite level of sailors. To get their input and feedback is really tremendous”, said Ketelbey in closing.

No regatta is complete without a welcome and this one is from RBYC’s General Manager, Eric Wegman. “Our local Etchells fleet has just kicked off its season and the highlight will be this regatta. There are wonderful new people involved in this growing fleet. Melbourne has turned it on before for other Australian and World Championships, and I know it will again. We are all certainly looking forward to having as many of the national Etchells Fleet here in attendance as previously. We have got all the welcome mats and smiling staff you’ll ever need to add to your on-water experience.”

Now in winding up, it is important to note that there will be terrific daily and overall prizes at the 2016 Etchells Australian Championship, courtesy of Gill and Harken. North Sails will once again provide a brand new headsail as the mid-fleet prize. So thank you to them and all the other sponsors as well; Entire, Graphic Effects, GFS Electrical, Gunther Developments, Protecon Solutions, and Saltytag.com.au

So to check out all things Etchells, and most importantly to book in for this sensational clash of the crews, please visit etchells.org.au and start clicking away. Don’t forget your shirt sizes, which you’ll also need for the entry. Now is the time to sign on for this grand spectacular, known colloquially as the Etchells nats. Come January 2016, however, it will time for the spectators to see just which of the faithful will reign supreme.

by John Curnow

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