NSW State Championship

Ups and downs but First Tracks stay on top at Etchells NSW State Championship

19 February 2022 Author: Nic Douglass
Flirtation take the win in Race 6

 Flirtation take the win in Race 6
© Nic Douglass @sailorgirlHQ

Day two of the Etchells NSW State Championship was exceptionally variable and shifty on Sydney Harbour with breeze starting at 210, and moving at times all the way to 240, and later in the day right around to 90 degrees with no more than 8 knots of pressure apart from one passing raining cloud. Despite the incredibly challenging conditions, the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron Race Committee, headed by Race Officer Rob Ridley managed to get in the full program of three races, taking the championship total to six.

Regardless of the ups and downs in pressure, First Tracks AUS1485 skippered by Peter Merrington with Ian McKillop and David Gilmour remains at the top of the leaderboard ahead of Dawn Raid AUS1361 Matt Whitnall, Rob Bishop and Adrian Dunphy.

After a brilliant 10, 1, 2 in the conditions and claiming “boat of the day”, Yandoo XX AUS868 skippered by Nev Wittey with three Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron youth squad members, Kyra Early, Zac West and Jameson Prescott moved up to third overall.

Fourth overall is Doug McGain’s Ciao AUS1244 with his crew Michael O’Brien and Mark Dagworthy and fifth overall is Flirtation AUS1026 skippered by Matt Crawford with brother Rob Crawford and Karl Bromfield after their win in the final race today.

Race 4 got underway with a start line set just off Steele Point at 210 degrees.

First around the top mark was Tango AUS1466 skippered by Chris Hampton, who had a great start at the pin end of the line, and continued to play that side right alongside Shark Island to stay out of the outgoing opposing current. There was quite a margin back to Corinthian Dawn Raid AUS1361 in second and Wobbegong 2 AUS1436 skippered by Roger Perrett with Paul Gudmunson and Grant Crowle.

The team on Tango AUS1466 held their lead around the bottom mark, however, were caught up the second work by Whitnall and his team on Dawn Raid AUS1361 who tacked onto starboard from port right at the top mark. After a little bit of shouting, the Dawn Raid team did turns, and finished third. AUS1435, Flying High 2 skippered by JC Strong with Seve Jarvin and Sam Newton were second.

Race 5 was set at 200 degrees, and started in a similar position to the prior race off Steele Point. The best starters were Yandoo XX AUS868 and Tango AUS1466 , and it was not surprising to see them first and second respectively at the top mark. Third was 2107 Racing AUS1213 skippered by Dave Taylor, with Mark Griffith and Michael Hayward.

By the bottom mark, First Tracks continued to show their downwind prowess and moved into third. The first two continued to battle it out, but Wittey’s match racing history came to the fore, even in an incredibly shifty course including a raining cloud, and he was never headed.

At the final top mark, the finish was moved to an axis of 165 (so 345 for the sailors’ downwind bearing) with the left hand shift that had filled in on the second work. The order around the marks did not change from the bottom in the top five, and AUS868 went on to win the race.

AUS1485 moved up from third to second on the final run, again showing their downwind strength, which moved AUS1466 back to third.

Race 6 was set at 140 degrees following the significant shift to the left in Race 5. The pin end was favoured at the start, in fact Adam Magpie AUS1187 crossed the fleet in the early stages of the race. There were three individual recalls, AUS1447, AUS1484 and AUS895.

The fleet split early on the long approach to the top mark, which included Shark Island in the centre of the course, with AUS1026 Flirtation rounding just ahead of Yandoo XX AUS868.

The lead changed thrice on the downwind leg as conditions became more unstable between Yandoo XX and Flirtation.

Following the first two boats there was significant movement in the fleet, particularly for AUS1485 and AUS831 rounding in third and fourth, having been 12th and 15th respectively at the top.

In order to ensure that all of the competitors finished inside the ninety minute time limit, the course was shortened to finish at the second top mark.

AUS1026 held on to their lead to take the win narrowly over AUS868.

“A good day today, but so tricky” said Nev Wittey skipper of Yandoo XX sailing with three members of the RSYS Youth Program. “Are we boat of the day?!” he finished. “10, 1, 2 awesome! I don’t mind being inside the top ten all the time!”

“Well the kids are blown away [moving into third overall]” he said. “They are so happy, and I’ve got to say they’ve improved rapidly, and they are having a good time. One has even offered to swim the boat tomorrow”.

“Look, they are learning,” said Wittey, who is also the coach of the RSYS Youth Program. “I’m trying to make sure that they do every aspect of everything that we all do at events. And I am pleased, look they are rising to the challenges, I think there is still a bit of Star Wars going on out there. They are sometimes not quite sure what is going on. But no, I am really pleased”.

“I know that two of my crew are on P Plates” Wittey said of his youth team when asked about their age, “none of them have raced Etchells before”.

“This would have to be the best thing going on in Australia right now, without a doubt, I mean look at the fleet, it’s fantastic, and my team are starting to learn that even though they are a big heavy Etchells, rather than a Laser or whatever they are used to, we still have to move our bodies and we have to do it now... They are active in trying to understand what they need to do on the boat”.

“They are loving it, and I am loving it. It’s good fun, and if we have a good day tomorrow... ?!” he concluded with a big grin.

Live Coverage

Race 4

Race 5

Race 6

There is one day remaining tomorrow with a potential for two races (maximum eight) to be sailed at the Etchells NSW Championship supported by Sentinel Risk Managers, Sail Racing and North Sails. The media partner, Hill PDA is also supporting live coverage of the event, to follow, head to Etchells Australia on Facebook, or find more information at

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