The International Etchells class Victorian Championship 2024 was contested at Metung on the Gippsland Lakes, Victoria, Australia, from January 26 to 28.
Main photo: Team Ireland Girl – Nigel Abbott, James McLennan, Jack Felsenthal and Jack Abbott (helm), with Geoff Henke and the perpetual trophy for the International Etchells class Victorian Championship.
Day three started early, with the intent to get enough races for a series. Day two had concluded with three races completed after nine hours on the water.
The Victorian Championship needed four races completed for a series and five for a choice of race drop. The race committee was aiming for six races by the end of Sunday (January 28, Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time, and day three).
Variable winds from 1.5 to 16 knots and gusting up to 20 and disqualifications were significant features of the conditions on the previous day. Racing on day one did not start because of gale winds 30-plus knots.
The course for race four was set at 270d, over 1.1NM. The wind shifted to the west and the speed reduced to 1.5 knots, which caused the Race Officer to postpone the race just as it started.
The race course was reset at 250d and shortened to 1.0NM, out in Lake King and directionally towards McMillan Strait. After retirements, disqualifications, gear breakages and injuries on several boats the previous day, the full fleet of 17 competitors started this race cleanly.
Mens Shirts Short Skirts gained the windward gates first, with Peter Stubbings on the helm, supported by Anne Stubbings and Ross Melville. They were only slightly ahead of Playing Around 3, helmed by Peter Robson, with local young sailors Bentley Conn, Toby Conn and Oscar Forbes as crew.
The bulk of the fleet came around the windward gates together, with Elusive, Ireland Girl, Basic Instinct, Come Monday, Jindavik and Count Boris's Secret Rendezvous contesting for space.
The rest of the fleet was strung out.
On the second leg to windward, the lead had changed - Playing Around 3 led the pack around the gates, ahead of Mens Shirts Short Skirts. The next boats were all locals.
Come Monday had moved up the fleet, steered by Steve Bull with crew of Stuart Loft and Wayne Smith.
They were followed by Ireland Girl - helmed by Jack Abbott and crew of Nigel Abbott, Jack Felsenthal and James McLennan - with Jindavik close behind, steered by Toby Richardson, with crew of Oliver Nicholas and David Rees.
With their spinnakers up, Playing Around 3 led the way home, crossing the finish line ahead of Men's Shirts Short Skirts, followed by Ireland Girl, then Jindavik. Come Monday, Elusive, Tamm Ha Tamm, Count Boris's Secret Weapon and Basic Instinct rounded out the leader board.
With the completion of race four, the Etchells Victorian Championship 2024 now had a series.
Race five course was set at 210d, over 1.1NM, heading Lake King towards McMillan Strait and began fairly smartly.
The Etchells Victorian Championship regatta was held in conjunction with another one design regatta, using the same course. During race five, sailing the same course, a number of Etchells yachts on their windward-leeward and leeward-windward legs sailed between the International Dragons on their leeward-windward leg.
Ireland Girl led all the way in race five. She was followed by Come Monday.
At the windward gates on the first turn, the rest of the fleet was bunched and Apres La Mer returned to the leaders, followed by Jindavik. The windward gate turn was achieved in two minutes from the first to the last boat, testament to the speed of the fleet.
The positions of Apres La Mer and Jindavik were reversed coming around the windward gate on the second leg.
Crossing the finish line, it was all local boats finishing in the top four - Ireland Girl first, followed by Come Monday, then Jindavik. Fourth position was taken by Apres La Mer, sailed by Peter Wilkinson, Peter Bull and Adrian Seymour. Apres La Mer had blitzed race one on day two then retired with gear breakages.
The RO decided to run another race - race six of the series, and set the course at 160d over a shortened 0.7NM. The course ran from Lake King opposite Luderick Point.
Again, 17 boats contested the race, and got away cleanly.
Ireland Girl led all the way again, followed by Jindavik, on both legs and across the finish line. It was only the rest of the fleet that changed.
Around the windward gates the first time, also in a two-minute time shift, the third boat around was Men's Shirts Short Skirts, followed by Come Monday, then Elusive, sailed by Jeff Rose, Mark Henger and Rob Conn. Hot on their sterns were Quandong - sailed by Niesje Hees (helm), Cliff Gibson and Josh Reid - and Playing Around 3 in that order.
Around the windward gates for the second time, Playing Around 3 turned ahead of Men's Shirts Short Skirts, followed by Come Monday, then Elusive.
The race finish went to Ireland Girl, followed by Jindavik, Playing Around 3, Men's Shirts Short Skirts, Elusive, Come Monday, in that order, with the rest of the fleet behind.
Race Officer John Spencer said the race conditions were very frustrating.
"Nothing stayed constant. The wind was fickle and all over the place," he said.
"The second race was won with reaching, and that's not ideal.
"I let races go where in other circumstances I would have halted them. But if I'd done that today [Sunday, January 28 2024], we wouldn't have completed the necessary races in the time frame.
"The last race occurred in pretty well perfect conditions."
Series results were: 1st Ireland Girl, 11pts; 2nd Jindavik, 12pts; 3rd Come Monday, 20pts; 4th Playing Around 3, 21pts.
Jack Abbot (helm of Ireland Girl) sailed with a youth crew and his father, Nigel Abbott, who is a previous World Champion in the Fireballs class, was on board the defending yacht in the 1986 America's Cup race in Western Australia's waters, and is an East Gippsland Etchells champion.
Abbott junior and senior were supported by James McLennan and Jack Felsenthal, who have sailed regularly on the Gippsland Lakes, usually supporting Jack Abbott in The Archer.
Jack Abbott borrowed Ireland Girl from MYC member, Kim McKendrick, and the entire crew are fresh from representing Metung at the recent NSW and Australian championships in Sydney.
Trophies were presented by Geoffrey Henke, crewmate and friend of Alec Milledge who was instrumental in bringing the Etchells class to Australia.