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Sprinting to the sunset (as well as the drinks and prizes)

14 February 2017 Alistair Murchison

Etchells Sprint in December

"Etchells Sprint in December"

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Swan River Etchells Fleet, in conjunction with Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club, hosted the inaugural Etchells Sunset Sprints, which were held on the midweek evenings of 14-16 December, 2016. Taking inspiration from Sydney’s Milson Silver Goblets, and also our Tuesday training sessions with a twist of turbo, the regatta tested and proved successful a number of innovative and contemporary formats.

The regatta included three races per evening, starting after a day in the office (for some) at 5pm, and finishing in time for a few sunset beers on the wharf on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Over the three evenings, nine windward/leeward double-lap sprints were sailed, with plenty of action throughout the series. This was due to the short course, sprint style format, and the strong calibre of WA’s fleet.

It is really pleasing to report on the level of support this new regatta received from RFBYC, race officers, volunteers, umpires, owners and crews of the 19 boats that entered the regatta, with approximately 14 boats on the start line each evening.

Kim Laurence and his start team of Barbara-Dene Jones, Peter Massee, Jill Massee, Ian Deany, Pauline Chalmer, and Mary Joyce, supported by the mark layers including John Low, Brad Stout, George Vaskovics, Russell Wellington, and Peter Chalmer worked hard and tirelessly to put on nine starts, 18 sets, 18 top mark roundings, nine bottom gates and nine finishes with no crashes or significant incidents. Not a bad effort for a casual mid week regatta, and that’s before we’ve even got to the weekend.

Each evening saw two umpire boats patrolling the fleet, manned by RPYC Etchells Fleet Captain, Richard Goldsmith, Jenn Suffield and Garry Dean. The on-water umpiring proved very successful, especially at the top mark, where the Etchells fleet have a reputation for being a little keen, to say the least. It also assisted with having quick, even starts, and eliminating general recalls, where a tight program was scheduled.

Sponsors for the event were Boating Hardware, who provided $600 worth of gift vouchers to the chandlery or shipwright, Panasonic provided two waterproof cameras, Paul Nelson Wines for the some lovely white wine for the volunteers, and RFBYC’s Debbie Blaauw and Sharon Skinner, who were so supportive of the initiative.

Taking out the regatta was guest skipper, and world match racing tour legend, Keith Swinton, with Andy Fethers, Sean Gregory and Mimi Kitto on the Cone Of Silence. In second place were Martin Webster, Adele Jackson, Bjorn Nielsen and Chris Smith on Highlander, and in third place with Ray Smith, Mike Hughes and Brad Sheridan on St John’s Dance.

Wednesday evening saw the RPYC and RFBYC Etchells meet mid-river with Champaign sailing conditions of 8-12 knots from the South West, flat water and no other boats to be seen. Remarks on dock were consistent that sailing doesn’t get any more enjoyable than that! The four-up team on the Cone Of Silence sailed from strength to strength, with three clear bullets on the opening night.

All boats then sailed back to RFBYC, where some wet parked for the series. Over 50 competitors and volunteers enjoyed cracking open a few cartons of ice-cold Gage Roads sponsored beers.

Thursday evening saw a 20-knot seabreeze arrive, and some dynamic sprint racing in Freshwater Bay. Alistair Murchison on Bandwagon earned a bullet, aided by a killer lay line call from tactician Robbie Gibbs, and handy crew work from Geoff Lansell and young Jack. Other standout results were The Cone Of Silence taking out their fourth bullet, and Peter Chappel on 1382 also taking out a race.

By Friday evening the smell of the Boating Hardware gift vouchers, Paul Nelson Wines, and Panasonic cameras was too much for some, with a number of OCS’s. Alistair Murchison on Bandwagon collected two, which crushed his plans for a second place finish in the regatta overall. The Cone took out their fifth bullet for the series, consolidating a standout regatta victory, with Ray Smith’s St John’s Dance claiming their second bullet and taking third place in the regatta. Martin Webster’s team on Highlander earned themselves a very respectable couple of seconds to make second place overall in the regatta their own. Well done to all participants.

Another key mention is AUS1289 who finished in sixth place overall. Ethan Preto-Low is 17, George Boulden 18, and Andrew Briggs is also 18 years of age. The last few years the Swan River Etchells Fleet has seen a welcomed addition of younger teams, with these guys taking it to the next level. The Etchells fleet is working hard at RFBYC to provide a seamless integration between the club’s dinghy and Etchells fleets.

As a little aside, the majority of the WA’s Warren Jones International Youth Regatta, and local M32 World Match Racing Team entrants, have all competed in Etchells over the last 12 months. This includes Redline Racing, Calypso Racing, Neptune Racing and Gilmore Racing Team.

Following Friday evening’s racing, the regatta presentations took place on the idyllic setting of the RFBYC lawn. Boating Hardware’s Stevie Locke assisted me in awarding the sponsored prizes and pennants.

On the fleet development side of things, the regatta was very successful. An informal nature saw us waive all onsite registrations in lieu of online entries, and we had no sail card or weigh in. This saw some nice developments, such as Brad Sheridan’s ability to test out some new sails he is developing with AUS Sailmakers, and a number of participants jump on an Etchells for the first time in a four-up capacity.

More pictures, the highlight video and coaching footage is visible at the Swan River Etchells Fleet website, our Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Alistair Murchison
RFBYC Etchells Fleet Captain

Etchells Sprint in December

"Etchells Sprint in December"


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