Australasian Winter Championship

It all begins now

8 June 2017 Author: John Curnow
Sam Haines, Mark Andrews and Chris Hapton, Tango, returning after training

 Sam Haines, Mark Andrews and Chris Hapton, Tango, returning after training
© Alex McKinnon

In up to eight races time, a new Champion crew will be crowned. That may sound short until you realise that it is three races on each of Friday and Saturday, with two more on Sunday, and that each of them will be at least one hour in duration. It takes focus, it is demanding, and if there is breeze of significant strength, then it is also very tiring.

Alas, that’s why they call it a sport. Now for the last 20 years, Australia’s premier One Design class has been coming to delightful Mooloolaba at the start of winter to see who is best in the magic Pacific waters right off the beach, in front of all the hotels, shops and restaurants.

Over that time, it has garnered significant interest from crews based out of Hong Kong, as well as New Zealand. 2017 is to be the same, with at least four States of Australia also represented. Some have driven for two days with their Etchells under tow, just to be a part of this incredibly famous and fun, three-day regatta.

In all that time, only one Skipper has won the event more than once. He is Matt Chew, and together with regular crew of Ash Deeks, Ben Vercoe and Brian Donovan, Gen XY has shown more than enough pace of late, whilst racing as part of their home fleet in Brisbane. They are determined to make it three, which in turn will set them up very well for a tilt at the top spot at the 2018 Etchells World Championship, which is to be held in Brisbane in October of next year.

Indeed, many a crew has their eyes narrowed at the very same prize. Of the 40 boats amassed here for the Line 7 Etchells Australasian Championship, at least a dozen could be the ones anointed with the big prize by Sunday. That means every mark rounding is going to be crucial and of course, a bad day at the office can have a catastrophic impact on your final result.

Consistency is key, and sometimes the crew that wins the regatta actually never wins a race in the process, but racks up a lot of top five places, race after race, after race. As is typical with Etchells racing, no matter whether you are racing for positions in the top five or from 30 to 35, it is more than game on, and every bit counts as you claw your way up the ladder. Usually mistakes have big long pythons attached to them and the ride down can be devastating. No matter what happens on the water, the spirit of Etchells is all about everyone improving, and help is never far away.

One of the form crews of late is Yandoo XX. Jeanne-Claude Strong has taken her passion for sailing and matched with great results, the last of which was taking out the Victorian State Championship back in March, with crew of Marcus Burke, Seve Jarvin, Tiana Wittey, and Nev Wittey coaches them. Strong is one of the expanding female owner/driver’s in the Etchells, which is a class that attracts sailors from 18 years of age or less, up to many multiples of that number. Sex, age, and size are no barrier, with smaller sailors being able to have four on board, instead of three. As long as the total mass is the same, then it is time to go racing.

Magpie, which is Graeme Taylor, Steve Jarvin and James Mayo are the reigning Australian Champions, for the last two years, no less. They are all great friends, sail exceptionally well together, and utterly affable as well. You can usually see sail number AUS 947 in the mix at the sharp end of the fleet, as this crew quietly and expertly go about their business with near surgical precision.

Winning the New South Wales State Championship but seven months ago were Chris Hampton, Sam Haines and Mark Andrews on Tango. The near-new Pacesetter boat (AUS1443) was put together with racecar-esque attention to detail, precision and performance. The crew are no different and certainly keen to go that one stage better and take out the 2017 Line 7 Etchells Australasian Championship.

Now the crews from Iron Lotus, Encore, Iris III, Fair Dinkum, Ciao, and Fifteen+ all well and truly know what it is like to stand atop the winners’ dais, and just as importantly, what it takes to get there! In amongst the fleet are former World Champions of both Etchells and other classes, as well medal winning Olympians, and inshore and offshore legends.

If you want to keep right up to date with all the goings on, then please see The Line 7 Etchells Australasian Championship thanks Line 7, The Sunshine Coast Council, North Sails and the Newport Apartments for making it all happen.