The 2017 International Etchells Western Australian State Championships were Run and Won the weekend of 11 and 12 March on beautiful Fremantle Waters in what can only be described a ‘’Mixed Bag’’ of Conditions – which is exactly why we de-rig and head over/ under the Fremantle Port car bridges to test ourselves on conditions other than the Swan River.
This was the second year concurrently our Swan River Etchells Fleet headed ‘’up the creek’’ to the Royal Perth Yacht Club (RPYC) Annexe at Fremantle Mews with the Organising Authority Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club (RFBYC). As a Mixed Club Fleet – we rotate between RFBYC and RPYC and had a good showing of 21 Etchells this year with three members of the Australian Sailing Team Sailing Etchells for their first State Championships anywhere in Australia – including Matt Wearn RPYC (Laser) doing Bow on AUS 940 North Star and David Gilmour RFBYC and his Crew Joel Turner (RQYS) from the 49er Team on AUS 1374 St John’s Dance Helming and Bow respectively. More on these ‘’Young Guns’’ later …
The Committee set three races for a Series, scheduled eight with a drop after five and PRO Kim Laurence (and Fleet Treasurer) decided to get five races ‘’in the bank’’ Saturday as the Sunday forecast was not looking too favourable.
Saturday was classic Western Australian sunshine on the sparkling Indian Ocean albeit quite light and shifting conditions Axis’ varied from 135 – 150 – 170 around 5 – 8 kts for two lap races between 1.3 – 1.8 nm. Race one set the tone with not one but two General Recalls meaning Kim bought out the Black Flag (BFD) and in race one, catching out eight Etchells.
The remainder of Day one’s races were conducted under BFD and some were pinged again in race three, effectively ending their Regattas – AUS 827 Heart Starter; AUS 1022 Screaming Plum and AUS 891 Bandwagon. Sunday saw R6 abandoned after one lap started with an Axis 120 in a swinging E/ NE a classic ‘’transitional breeze’’ – quite normal for Summer Mornings before the ‘’Fremantle Doctor’’ S/W’ er kicks in – however we’re in Autumn ! After chasing wind around Owen Anchorage a few nautical miles south of Fremantle we ended up near Carnac Island and got Race 6 away around 10:30 with Axis 060.
For race seven the breeze was definitely in 15- 18 kts with gusts 20 kts plus. The black clouds also rolled in and with thunder due, Kim made the prudent call to get us home – and we sailed with lightening over Rottnest Island before a torrential downpour as we berthed to de-rig for the trip home – some by road, some by water. That certainly wasn’t in the Brochure but everyone took it in their stride !
The Winners, in another dominant victory were AUS 1402 The Croc, Michael Manford, RFBYC Commodore Dean McAulley and Nick Gray. They finished with nett 16.0, 8.0 ahead of their nearest rival. Impressively this was their third consecutive win for the Bolero Trophy named after the first Etchells in WA and won in 1985 by Peter Gilmour five times World Match Racing World Champion who’s eldest son is David that Michael held off to Win – a Three-peat !
Michael gave another great speech, as always encouraging everyone to spread the word on our beloved Etchells – a Fleet he’s sailed for well over a decade now including winning the 2012/13 Nationals with his current Team (over John Bertrand’s AUS 1383 Triad). Michael noted that the majority of the Fleet all had good results over the two days as was often the nature of this International One Design Class. He encouraged us Sailors to tell our friends about Etchells and get them involved too. ‘’For little money, anyone can sail Etchells with plenty of good yachts available for Charter or to buy”. Given we are hosting the 2018 Nationals and 2020 Worlds, he noted now was an excellent time to get into Etchells. He complimented Massimo Valentini sailing his beloved AUS 648 Fussy to 2 Top 10 finishes as testimony to the Design of Etchells – older is often just as good – although this Editor notes, Michael has the newest boat in our Fleet – 1402 the Pamcraft he purchased in 2014/15.
David and Joel were invited to sail with Ray Smith on his AUS 1374 St John’s Dance after regular crew Mike Hughes was Offshore Racing and Alan Smith away playing with TP52s in Miami. Rounding out Ray’s ‘’Boy Band’’ was 13 year old WA Bic Sailor Will Drew – making up the 35 odd kilos the ‘’Big Boys’’ needed for this Regatta and bringing excellent skills honed over many years on the water that belie his young age but ramped up at this year’s Warren Jones Regatta sailing with a NZ Team. Ray handed the Helm to David so he could concentrate on running the Crew. Joel sailed Bow and Will helped with general duties including calling Time, Shifts and generally tidying up an always busy Etchells cockpit. They finished with a Nett 24.0 and dropped a BFD in race one to finish Second.
In Third place was AUS 940 North Star, bought by Richard Goldsmith from Michael Coxon in 2015 and towed across the Nullabor to RPYC. Richard was unable to sail so asked Robbie Gibbs who had crewed with him a few times to take his Etchells out. Robbie sailed his first Etchells Regatta at age 18 and only now is mid 20s and enjoying being back in our Class. Robbie procured ‘’old hand’’ Paul Spencer, known to WA Yachting as both an excellent Sailor and Shipwright and then asked Matt Wearn to hop on the Bow – to see how he could handle Spinnakers and Jibs – not just ‘’big white sails’’ on his Laser perhaps ? Matt narrowly missed Australian Olympic Team Selection for the Laser in 2016 but Tom Burton who went on to win Australian Gold credited Matt widely as his teammate / training partner for helping cement his Rio Win. Robbie was thrilled with his third place with Nett 36.0 and commented ‘’the Swan River Etchells Fleet is as competitive as I’ve ever seen for a local event’’ and for someone screaming around on an M32 for the past six months and formerly of the World Match Racing Tour – that’s a great endorsement. He thanked our Fleet for their energy and support in getting him ‘’up to speed’ – ‘’It really shows the character of the people involved when they’re prepared to help us get going even if it means losing a place’’.
A notable mention to Ethan Low, 17 years old helming his chartered Etchells AUS 1289 to sail his first States with good RFBYC Match Racing Mates George Boulden and Andrew Briggs. Ethan is a past competitor in the Warren Jones Regatta and helms his dad’s Dragon on the Swan River, has sailed 5o5s and enjoys the Flying Fifteens too. He’ll finish Year 12 this year but his Worlds Program includes 2019 Dragon and 2020 Etchells. Good on you Ethan – great to see more young and dedicated Sailors yachting Etchells in Western Australia.
Special mention to our new International Etchells Governor – elected at 2016 Cowes Worlds – Grantham Kitto AUS 963 The Rat. Grantham coaxed his 12 year old son Johnathon to sail with his usual team – owner Brad Moore and Tim Ward. Well done to the youngest sailor in our Fleet – we’re hoping Dad gave him some extra pocket money for his efforts this weekend…
Final Thanks to our outgoing Fleet Captain Bruce Maloney who announced his Retirement from the Helm after taking over from Paul Reiffer in 2013/4. Thanks as always to RFBYC, especially Sailing Administrator Sharon Skinner, Clem Rogers from RPYC Annnexe and all of our wonderful Volunteers – without whom we wouldn’t be anywhere – let alone on the Racetrack. To our Loyal Sponsors – Gill Australia, North Sails Western Australia , Paul Nelson Wines, RAECO Services, Gage Roads Brewery and D’Orsogna – Thank You for your ongoing Patronage.
by Mandy McEvoy