Australian Championship

Talk is over. Now it's time to enter.

10 September 2015 Author: John Curnow
Large fleet of Etchells heads downwind with Melbourne’s CBD behind them

 Large fleet of Etchells heads downwind with Melbourne’s CBD behind themPhotographer: Kylie Wilson -

Yes. The 2016 Etchells Australian Championship looms large and bright on the calendar. The release of the revised NoR and the opening of online entry means it is certainly time to click away. Racing out of the Royal Brighton Yacht Club on the shores of Melbourne's Port Phillip is from January 10 to 15 inclusive. Registration opens on January 9, 2016.

Apart from attracting the country's best sailors to this most prestigious of Classes, the regatta will also be a great time to see if many of the ‘newer' crews have done enough over the last 5-10 years to have a red hot crack at the big one. Naturally there will be some highly recognisable names amongst the regulars, but with an anticipated fleet of up to 70 boats, you will do well to secure a top 20 mark rounding and top ten finish. Equally, a fleet of that kind of size has not hit the Bay's short chop since the 2009 Etchells World Championship, so it is bound to be a spectacle for all the joggers, dog walkers and rollerbladers who enjoy the foreshore tracks from Sandringham to Elwood.

So to get that sort of buzz, it means every road trailer in the country will be in service and those who have competed in the 2015 Worlds in Hong Kong will have to ship their boats directly to Melbourne after they're finished. If all of that is not enough to have you clicking through links right now, then consider these interesting and new elements:

  • It is the first time a Corinthian trophy will be on offer
  • Equally, it is the first time that a trophy will be awarded to the top female helmer
  • Masters are now 60 years and over
  • Grand Masters will now have a combined 165 years with the average as 55+.

Still not enough, then ponder this. They were there in 2009 and they will once more be bringing their consummate style and proficiency to the regatta's on-water affairs. They are, of course, the Wilson brothers, Ross and Kevin. The latter will be the PRO and he commented whilst at sea, "Presently in the Whitsundays cruising around. All is going well. We had the Shag Island rendezvous and now we're back to cruising around the islands."

"It's a pretty hectic pre-Christmas period with the Etchells QLD State Championship in October, then the Etchells Worlds in Hong Kong, the IFDS World Championships at the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria, the Sailing World Cup at St Kilda, Laser nationals at Lake Macquarie and then back to the premier keelboat event at RBYC. Looking forward to seeing some great racing between the cream of the Etchells fleet. As always, it is a very competitive fleet and winners will not be determined until after the last race. Expecting some true Bay conditions, with sea breezes to test the best."

Now it is probably unrealistic to consider they'll grab the new female helmer's prize, for they'll have to compete with the likes of Jeanne-Claude Strong, Jill Connell and Neisje Hees, but there are five women who just bought an Etchells so as to get serious about their racing. They all sail already and yes, are very much aware that five cannot all be on their Etchells at once. Accordingly, they will rotate on and off as well as which jobs they perform whilst aboard, sail on other Etchells and have guests on board their own from time to time too. Whatever it takes to get people out sailing seems to be the mantra.

Henceforth, AUS 1048 will be known as, Etchellente and she is owned by Karen Johns, Kath De Garis, Marg Rowe, Helen Morris and Sue Neales. Sue is the spokesperson for the syndicate and she commented about it all, "We all got talking about Etchells whilst having a dinner. Two or three of us were in between boats and then this one popped up, so away we went. It has a big pedigree, with Dennis Conner and Iain Murray having sailed her at one time, as well as a lot of sails for us to use whilst we train ourselves."

"This is no huge feminist statement, but we thought it would be a good deal of fun and equally, we know it is going to be a big learning curve. We are looking forward to translating our skills from larger boats to this very competitive class." Indeed they have all been part of the Port Phillip Women's Championship Series, which they feel is a great way to start conversations about boat ownership.

They were former dinghy sailors back in the day, and Karen Johns (with husband Peter) owns, Frances, the exquisite and historic 8m at Williamstown. "It makes it very affordable when you cover it five ways. It just makes good sense for both the original purchase price and then the running costs. We know our budget and we have all gone in to this with a 12-month arrangement, after which we will review and can buy out anyone not convinced of the programme."

"The Etchells are great and have been very welcoming, with the local fleet offering all sorts of help. It goes a long way to showing that the class is not all about older males. We do not have a full campaign as yet. We prefer to see how we are going

and then nominate some regattas", said Neales by way of finishing.

There will be terrific daily and overall prizes 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 the other sponsors as well; Entire, Graphic Effects, GFS Electrical, Gunther Developments, Protecon Solutions, and

So to check out all things Etchells, and most importantly to book in for this sensational clash of the crews, please visit 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.

The hosts – the Royal Brighton Yacht Club

 The hosts – the Royal Brighton Yacht ClubPhotographer: Kylie Wilson -

Sensational Summer conditions have been ordered for January, 2016

 Sensational Summer conditions have been ordered for January, 2016Photographer: Kylie Wilson -

Etchellente is (LtorR) Karen Johns, Kathy de Garis, Helen Moris and Margie Rowe - absent Sue Neales

 Etchellente is (LtorR) Karen Johns, Kathy de Garis, Helen Moris and Margie Rowe - absent Sue Neales