VIC State Championship

Masters of the last day

9 March 2015 Author: John Curnow
Winners are grinners and they are deserved ones at that!

 Winners are grinners and they are deserved ones at that!Photographer: Teri Dodds

Triad, which is crewed By Bill Browne, Jake Newman and John Bertrand AM have won the 2015 Etchells Victorian State Championship. They are known for their mastery of grabbing a title on the last day, even when it may not have seemed entirely likely, just as occurred at Adelaide recently for the Australian Etchells Championship. The waters of Geelong's Corio Bay proved to be equally fruitful for them and a pair of wins on the day took them to four in total from the six races.

You kind of deserve to win the championship with that sort of effort, and that is exactly what they did with a one-point margin over, The Boat. Overnight leader, Magpie, who did not get in phase early in either of the day's races, then had to work back through the fleet with deft skill and dedication to get top ten finishes and claim third place overall. Bertrand also collected the Masters trophy for the regatta, so together with the individual race wins, along with the overall title, there were plenty of trophies, and bottles of wine on their table.

Back ashore, John Bertrand commented, "You just have to keep going and not get caught up on other issues. The sport of sailing is interesting, unlike many other athletic endeavours, where you ride an emotional rollercoaster, particularly in variable conditions, such as we've had this weekend. It's a matter of getting in rhythm with the wind and playing the game with the fleet, but it is that rollercoaster that separates sailing. More so than other sports like tennis, cricket, track and field or swimming, where you have a fair idea of how you're going to go. With sailing you roll the dice with Mother Nature and see who deals best with 30-40 degree shifts and massive pressure variations and then you had to play it better than the other crews."

"We are thrilled to have put together the results to have this regatta win. In a way you have to forget about where the rest of the fleet is and just play the shifts on the water, but you still need a bit of luck from time to time. The 2016 Australian Etchells Championship is our next adventure and we are really hoping that everyone will come to that regatta hosted by Royal Brighton Yacht Club and make it a grand affair."

Bertrand finished by saying, "Jake is wonderful sailor and very intelligent operator on the boat and highly skilled in terms of wind shifts and boat speed out on the water. Very underrated I think. Bill has seven Australian Championships to his credit. Four with me, two with Noel Drennan and one with Noel Brooks, back when they had snubbing winches on the foredeck, which does date him I am sorry to say."

As an interesting aside, Paul Gunner related a story of he and his brother Nick (Smoking Gun AUS 1389) who started sailing in the early 60's. "We would be at Ocean Grove and this primary school teacher, Ruth Creer, would relate to us the exploits of one of her former students who was an Australian Mirror Champion and also Sharpie Champion etc. I reminded John of this back in 2011. He said at the time that if it wasn't for her letting him draw boats he would never have been interested in them and it was this interest that then drew him to his local club on the South Eastern shores of Melbourne's Port Phillip where his interest grew to passion, and the rest is history."

Now please also consider that The Boat, which is Jake Gunther, John Collingwood and Stuart Skeggs, were not only the Grand Masters, but also the Corinthian Champions. The mark of their supreme consistency meant their worst result was a seventh place. No other crew out there could claim that, and many were envious and marvelled at it, especially given the definitively challenging shifts that came down the course with nary any consistency themselves and almost always with a surprise packet or two.

Jake Gunther commented, "What a tremendous regatta the Geelong Fleet and the Royal Geelong Yacht Club have turned on. Fantastic racing was combined with terrifically hospitable times ashore. It was a delight."

In terms of spirit, there could have been no better example of the ubiquitous can-do attitude than with Voodoo Spirit, who were dismasted in an accident, early on day one. Mercifully it was only aluminium and Dacron that suffered. Guyon Wilson, John Wilson and Alister Lee were back out on the water the next day, courtesy of a spare mast. Voodoo Spirit finished the regatta with a third place in the last race of the day.

Skipper, Guyon Wilson, said "Yes, that was a much better afternoon. Well it was a particularly nice outcome given all we had been through. We certainly had not anticipated the low point of the regatta being anywhere near what it was or as early! We had a couple of poor races yesterday and then it was only after the first race today that we sorted the replacement mast out, which had been bent previously. It went a lot better after we had it all sorted out."

"Yes, we did have our minds back with the accident, but as the regatta drew on we got clear of that and a good result for the last race certainly helps. We lost the mainsail with the dismasting too, so there was a lot going on. However, the effort to put the new mast in was a terrific example of camaraderie. So many people gathered around with all sorts of help, otherwise it would not have happened. We got it done by about nine o'clock that night, so we are thankful to everyone for chipping in. That sort of assistance was enough to keep us going."

"It has been great to get out there, as the competition in them is just fantastic. We had five principal sponsors that all came from inside the Geelong Fleet and then there was all the helpers to make the regatta so successful and we are all really proud of conducting events for the Etchells", said Wilson.

Now before jumping on a plane to return to Sydney, Michael Coxon, who drove Magpie for the weekend with James Mayo and Richie Allanson as crew, said "Very happy we came to this regatta and it all came together on such short notice. We have to thank Graeme Taylor for loaning us Magpie to compete aboard. It was very kind of him to do so and to have James Mayo also be available was jus terrific. We have had a really good time."

"You had to be smart out there. Everyone has their day and today was not ours. We did start well, just picked the wrong side early. You have to get the first shift correct, otherwise you are behind and then have to claw back up through the fleet. Triad and The Boat sailed so well a great effort from both crews. They deserve to be at the top of the results table."

Coxon is one of the many people currently reviewing a brand new vessel, as Etchells continue to be the Class to operate in Australia. "Well we have sold our previous boat, so we do want to get back into it with a new one, which should happen as soon as we can finalise a few things for ourselves. I was hoping to have a new one by the mid-winters, but realistically it will take a bit longer than that. I think it is important to get some new boats into the fleet, because it is time to support the Class and the new boats are the future."

"I think the Etchells are going to go through a growth spurt now. They are affordable, they're not hard to organise and do it, a great bunch of people sail them and they offer the best one design sailing. The standard of race management means it is always good racing, even in testing conditions, which is a credit to the Class and the people it attracts", said Coxon.

The subject of new boats is a tremendous segue into this next crew. Since getting his new Pacesetter Etchells late last year, John Warlow has taken Land Rat on an immense safari from her home in Brisbane. First stop was Adelaide for the Australian Championship, then Sydney for the NSW title and now Victoria, where he sailed with Mick Patrick and Will Thomson. He's driving AUS 1422 back on her road trailer, but said before leaving, "We do seem to be getting this travelling and racing thing down pat. I think the practice has been very good for us. We are just becoming more and more confident around the racetrack. The boat I quick and if we put it in the right spot we are as good as anything at the moment. We just need to get some starting and first beat things sorted out and we'll be happy."

"The good guys certainly won, and we go away very happy with our own result (fifth place). Very pleasing and we are looking forward to our Brisbane Fleet racing, so we hope some of the travellers heading off to Mooloolaba will partake in them. They'll be on the same course as where we are going to hold the 2018 World Championship, so the practice will be important."

One person very conversant with racing and World Championships is the PRO for this regatta, Ross Wilson. Talking of the last day, Wilson said, "There were two things that were on my mind about today. Firstly, I was always worried about the wind clocking around further South and possibly even to the Sou'east. So whilst we had that beautiful, fresh Sou'wester (240-250) rolling down Corio Bay, there was a strong desire to make the most of it. All I wanted was to offer the proverbial Champagne sailing to the fleet. I think that was achieved, which is ratified with just three minutes between first and last for that second race."

"The second item was that after Race Five went so well I decided to stick with the two laps for Race Six and finish downhill, which was away from the Royal Geelong Yacht Club. If the breeze changed after we were done they'd all still be able to make their way back home comfortably, but the benefits was that we had got a good race completed with a terrific, close finish. This is also why we were so quick to reset after the General Recall and went straight to Code Flag 'U', as well."

"During the day we had anything from 8 to 22 knots in the gusts, with an average of 11.2 on the first and 11.6 in the second, which spent most of its time in the 13-16 knot range. This is why we were able to get the range out to 1.5nm. All in all it was just magic sailing for the Etchells."

"Triad made it hard for themselves yesterday, but they redeemed themselves today. You can never rule a line through their name. It was interesting to note that a lot of the top runners were over for that General Recall and Triad was one of them, but apart from that there was no way anyone was looking to get UFD today! It's the starters dream when they all stay well back below the line. For the first time ever, JB actually asked for a copy of the results before he went out on the water today, so I am sure many of them were keeping track of the scores and what they had to do", said Wilson.

"What great sailing waters they have here on Geelong's Corio Bay. Absolutely ideal for championships and top class sailing."

On a final note, please ponder that Jake Newman was literally just a couple of days old when John Bertrand skippered Australia II to her record smashing victory. "It is kind of fun to sail with JB and Billy. They are great sailors and JB has been an idol of mine for a long time, so it is pretty amazing to actually be out there sailing with him."

"There are a few younger teams getting about now and a lot more younger sailors joining the Etchells ranks as part of a crew, which is good to see. Generally they do pretty well. We need more of us younger crowd coming in the class. They are a physical boat, so being more youthful can really help with hiking, which is crucial to doing well. Being agile and pretty fit are also big benefits. You know, I have trouble holding onto the kite sheets on a 20 knot day, so all in all they are not an easy boat to sail and do well in. Seems to me that they are perfect for the younger sailors to get into and I highly recommend it."

"It would be great to have even more youth get amongst Etchells. Costs may be seen as a bit of a barrier, but Etchells are quite accessible and Gen XY proves how much you can achieve. I love the class. It is awesome one design sailing. There is so much talent amongst the fleet, so it is very exciting racing", said Newman, who has been around boats all his life. From age five or six he was sailing Cadets, whilst his dad was out on Hobie 18s (catamarans).

So that message of encouragement marks the end of the 2015 Etchells Victorian State Championship. Thank you to the sponsors, Rigid Scaffolding, Wilsons Real Estate, Jam Architects, Daronmont Technologies and Striproll Roofing Products. Nothing happens without them or the myriad of volunteers that a regatta needs. Also well done and thanks to Tim Clark and the Geelong Fleet, RGYC, the team of chefs cooking up sausages and hamburgers for hungry sailors, and to Pete Williams for providing and driving RIB Eye, on which the media team soaked up the whole experience today.

There is always something to review with the Etchells, whether it is WA's State Championships that were running concurrently, action aplenty with the Brisbane Fleet or the upcoming World Championship in Hong Kong and then early in 2016, it is the Australian Championship at Brighton. You can be a part of it all, just start your journey at with real-time information on the racing available from

Fresh breezes meant the wall of Etchells at a start were all at full speed

 Fresh breezes meant the wall of Etchells at a start were all at full speedPhotographer: Teri Dodds

Heading uphill on Triad with Pt Henry in the background

 Heading uphill on Triad with Pt Henry in the backgroundPhotographer: Teri Dodds

Doing a great job at the regatta meant The Boat took home plenty of loot. John Collingwood, Jake Gunther and Stuart Skeggs

 Doing a great job at the regatta meant The Boat took home plenty of loot. John Collingwood, Jake Gunther and Stuart SkeggsPhotographer: Teri Dodds

Flag for the 2016 Australian Championship was out circulating on the course to help promote the event

 Flag for the 2016 Australian Championship was out circulating on the course to help promote the eventPhotographer: Teri Dodds

Fast Forward (AUS 865) was very quick in the last race, pictured here with the winners, Triad

 Fast Forward (AUS 865) was very quick in the last race, pictured here with the winners, TriadPhotographer: Teri Dodds

Sydney's Adolescence in the middle of the action  Steve Billingham, William Lewis and Jarvis Tilly

 Sydney's Adolescence in the middle of the action Steve Billingham, William Lewis and Jarvis TillyPhotographer: Teri Dodds