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Home » Sailing » Queensland Etchells Championship: sensational conditions on Day 1

Queensland Etchells Championship: sensational conditions on Day 1


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LJ Hooker Etchells Queensland Championship 2014,. The super-polished GenXY outfit comprising Matt Chew, Brian Donovan, Bill Cuneo and Ash Deeks. Credit: John Curnow .

The flag was set early in the peace of the morning.

It very clearly signified that it was to be BBQ day for the Etchells competing in the LJ Hooker Etchells Queensland State Championships. The world-renowned, David and Sue Healey meat fest is just one of the many hospitalities that the Brisbane Etchells Fleet has bestowed upon all guests for this regatta. But alas, before any of that could take place, the 1000hrs briefing and then two races would have to occur and with sensational conditions on offer, the sailors were more than keen to get out on Moreton Bay and make the most of it.

The hardest news of the morning came in the form of Brisbane Etchells Fleet stalwart and all-round lovely guy, Noel Paterson, not being able to sail due to a problem with his back. It was a real shame given the amount of energy he had put in to the refit of his vessel. Unperturbed, however, he appeared to conduct the briefing and wish the fleet well. It would mean 19 vessels left the pond, but they represented clubs from NSW, VIC, TAS and WA, in addition to the home State.

The prep gun was to be fired at 1300hrs, so it was easy for crews to get out to the course area, which was South of Green Island and East of King Island to allow for clear space from other races being conducted in the area. Set on an axis of 020degrees over a range of 1.2 nautical miles all was looking very tidy and the start over the shortish line was all clear. Off they went on the first work of two windward/leeward returns.

The Committee Boat end was the place to be with just a minute to go, but at the pin end were J for Jig, Roulette and doing all they could to squeeze in for a spot amongst them was, Yep, but they did so with plenty of pace on board. Land Rat was another to move off smartly from the front row, too. Out the other side, Fifteen+ was making sure their intentions for the regatta were to be known, due to a fine and fast start in the 10 and occasionally 12 knot Nor’easter that combined with the bottom of the tide had a short, half metre seaway running. In the middle, Gen XY was going along smartly, which is to be expected of this crew. The left or West side of the course was favoured, albeit that some, like Roulette, had to go back East early to find clear space. Others doing very nicely there, thank you, were J for Jig, Yep and Land Rat, but in the centre there were craft like Fifteen+, Gen XY and Bootross planning their assault.

Nearing the top mark for the first time it became evident that those on the left of centre had done well, but if you had been too far, like J for Jig, it had cost you dearly. With the tide beginning to come back in, it was also going to be interesting to see whether the leaders would choose to come back down on the West side or hold more of a middle ground. More pressure was evident for those on the right or East side, but it would be a little late if you had gone too far that side, as well.

As the two arms of the pincer came together, Forceful, Roulette and Rolls Rocks were in positions to possibly be famous around the top mark. David Healey’s Rapscallion actually tacked in front of Gen XY about 200m out from the mark and also in that part of the course were Rolls Rocks and The Boat. Fifteen+ was ever looming over on the right side on the lay line straight into the mark. Odyssey would also be the classic ‘there or thereabouts’ as the pecking order got sorted out.

Fifteen would round ahead of Rapscallion and then Forceful with Gen XY just behind them. Bootross was in the leading group too. They did all start the return on the Eastern side. The exception was Yandoo XX who had rounded very close to the back of the fleet and was looking for alternatives. The wind had gone softer everywhere and ruined Yandoo XX’s get out of jail card.

Sailing with Jeanne-Claude Strong and Marcus Burke is former World Champion and Etchells Governor, Peter McNeill. He said after racing, “We stayed on the starboard gybe whereas the others all gybed over earlier, so we wanted to do our own thing and as the wind had been in the right, we thought we could come in on a nice angle when we finally had to gybe, but low and behold it knocked us and we only collected a couple of spots as a result. More would have been nice, but we did get a few more on the next work and finished in 12th place.”

At the bottom mark Fifteen+ would lead from Gen XY and choose to go through the Western gate, as that side had more strength in the breeze. Forceful would be third through and choose the other side, with Bootross next and Rapscallion taking fifth spot and then some very tight roundings as boats like Roulette, Odyssey and Land Rat in a very tight grouping.

Fifteen+, David Clark, Sean O’Rourke, Emma O’Rourke and Will Northam, doubled their lead over Gen XY on the work back up to the top. Also having a grand time was Bootross who were making hay whilst the other two were playing tactics against each other and losing a little speed as a result. Fifteen nailed the lay line in to the top mark and capitalised with a clear rounding in front of Gen XY and then Alex Gough, Charlie Wyatt, Paul Wyatt and Andrew Gough on Bootross showed how well they had done on that work by coming around in a clear third place.

Forceful, James Walker, James Tapp and Phillip Manning would be fourth and Rapscallion, with David Healey, Trevor Martin and Kevin Molen on board would be enjoying a great sail to be in fifth place. Most would return to the finish line on the Western side, with Land Rat being one of the first to hoe that ground. Tuco, Alistair Cowen, Michael Allen and Brad Warneke, performed a penalty turn just after rounding to exonerate themselves for a transgression. They would not be only ones on the day and it was good to see the sailors go the honourable solution without the need for judges on the course or time in the protest room later on.

Running down one noticed that 500m could mean a big difference in the breeze strength and sailors using that included Land Rat who had climbed into sixth place behind Rapscallion, but Odyssey would also be looking for a piece of that territory as well. The final result would go to Fifteen+ over Gen XY and Bootross, thence on to Forceful, The Boat who had been chipping away secretly, then Land Rat, Rapscallion and Odyssey. With a breeze that looked like it might falter and wander off, many were wondering if the Answering Pennant would be the next signal. After that race, and as they went off for a quick snack, David Clark on Fifteen+ said, “Really happy with that.” He is very reserved, but the smile showed how genuine he was.

At 1426hrs, the warning signals for the second race commenced as the breeze returned to answer the multitudinous requests from many of the sailors and spectators alike. This two-lap windward/leeward course was on an axis of 010 degrees now and over the same 1.2nm range. The boats were even closer to the line this time, with Yandoo XX being the standout, but only just from Tusk, who were representing the Royal Perth Yacht Club. In the centre of the front row were Roulette and Odyssey, both looking pretty sensational, too. The breeze was back to its now usual 12 knots and the seaway was a little smoother with more water in the area, but would get a little larger as the wind held in, despite wind and tide both running in the same direction.

Around half the fleet would go left and the other 50% headed off right, giving the full separation of the spectrum. Things were very orderly at the top as Yandoo XX capitalised on their sensational start and then they lead the fleet back down to the bottom, with Fifteen+ all over their tail on the Western side of the gate. Gen XY went over to the Eastern side for third, with J for Jig on West, Forceful back over with Gen XY, and then Roulette, Land Rat and Tusk again over on the Western mark of the gate.

The Boat – Jake Gunther, John Collingwood and Phil Chadwick, had issue with their forestay at this point and ran on past the bottom mark by 70 metres and go on to be well last to begin the voyage back to the top mark. Jake commented afterwards, “Coming in to the bottom mark to find we had no forestay was very exciting! Had a big shackle nearby as it turns out and got it on pretty smartly, but we had gone from the top three and 140m in an Etchells race is always hard to make back. Happy to get some of the spots back and have the rig upright still.”

Breeze at this point was 12-15knots and the seaway was always 0.5m, albeit somewhat fuller than earlier in the day, which was due to the incoming tide. Most had chosen to go right, but halfway up the course, the left was offering the best of the breeze. Yandoo XX had been out there and was now returning on a lift, with the leader of those on the right being Gen XY. The latter had selected a terrific lay line to go in on and as a result would round in top spot with Fifteen+ and Yandoo XX right there as well. Appearing from the middle was Odyssey, which was also utilising the better line on Port tack to romp in towards the lay line for the top mark.

A two-knot tidal flow was evident from the wake around the top mark, so the leaders had shown great skill to account for this in their choice of line to come in on. Another to be featuring in the calculations at this point was local boat, Tuco. Gen XY did go around first, the Fifteen+, Yandoo XX, Odyssey and then onto a battle between Bootross, Tuco and Roulette. The first three craft would accelerate away from the others, with Gen XY and Fifteen+ engaging each other in a match up and went over towards the Committee Boat, whilst Yandoo XX stayed on their own over at the pin end of the finish line for a very close, exciting and interesting finish.

The Race Officer for the series is Guy Morton. He commented after today’s racing, “8-12 knots for the day and pretty steadily from the Nor’east was better than I expected. We had the leader around the track in just over an hour, so we’ll probably go with 1.2nm again tomorrow. That last race was so close, less than a metre in the end and we thought the result would be other way around, but the inside boat got the gust and motored on in to the line. Expecting to see them get even closer, and possibly over the start line tomorrow as the energy levels rise. Thank you to my team of volunteers, who have been really wonderful.”

Speaking of that finish, which went to Gen XY in the end, David Clark from Fifteen+ said, “Good spinnaker trimming got us back a few boat lengths, as well as getting our weight around the boat properly to help us slide into a few waves.” The other craft that was part of the three-way tussle was Yandoo XX, whose Peter McNeill said, “Gave it some crank after the glamour start and went hard left and chose that side for the second work, as well. Unfortunately it went a bit right on the second work, which helped the other two out. We did not want to engage with Fifteen+ and Gen XY, whose crew are 45kg heavier. That finish was exciting and when they engaged each other we thought we might slip through and get the win as they were pretty much stuck together with chewing gum. Smiles all around and Jeanne-Claude helmed really well through the waves. Overall our speed was good considering we’re a bit light.”

After all that, Gen XY and Fifteen+ share the lead after Day One and Yandoo would settle into fifth. Third place is held by the team on Bootross and in fourth it is Jill Connell and her crew of Wade Morgan and Peter Merrington on Odyssey. Talking with Jill it was easy to spot her smile and that it was felt all the way through to her heart. She summed it up by saying, “Pretty good team and I am learning lots. Heaps better than retail therapy!”

There’ll be even more sun, water, fun, excitement and legendary hospitality on offer for Day Two of the LJ Hooker Etchells Queensland State Championships, when three races will be conducted. See here and here or follow it via #etchellsQLDstates, for all the key information.

By John Curnow


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