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Thirteen Winter Championships - thirteen winners

8 June 2009 Rob Kothe

Musto Etchells winning skipper, Damien King of Barry

"Musto Etchells winning skipper, Damien King of Barry"

Photo by:
Peter Duncan,

On the long weekend Friday morning at 11am a top class fleet of 54 Etchells one-deisng boats started three days of intense racing for the 13th annual Musto Etchells Australian Winter Championship at Mooloolaba, Queensland.

Among the favourites were last year's Mooloolaba winner Graeme Taylor (GT) from Melbourne and fellow Victorian's Mark Bulka and Damien King who finished second in the hard-fought 2009 Etchells World Championships on Port Phillip. Sydneysiders Julian Plante, David Clark and Mark Johnston, Queenslanders Peter Hollis, Mark Bradford and Vaughan Prentice and international sailors Alastair Gair from New Zealand and Mark Thornburrow from Hong Kong were also in the mix.

Race 1 was gunned away in glorious winter sunshine and six knots of breeze.

Mark Dagge's Una Mas from Brisbane cleared out, leading from the top mark, to win from Gair's Velsheda and Clark's Fifteen. Fourth was Melbourne sailor Chris Hampton (Tango) ahead of Johnson (Roulette)

In Race 2, at the top mark Gair was leading from King and his Barry crew, who had to dance through a 360 after touching the mark. However the gap on the Johnson's boat was such that no placing was lost.

Gair sailed away from the fleet down the last run to win ahead of King, Johnson and Vaughan Prentice's Funky Cold Medina.

Dockside winners were grinners. Series leader Gair, who was second in the Fremantle Etchells Worlds commented 'we are used to sailing in heavier conditions at home in New Zealand and that has been our strength up to now. But we have been working hard in training to improve our light wind speed and if today is a guide, we are on the right track.'

Second overall after two races, Johnson was both frustrated and pleased with his day at the office. 'Nik Burfoot and I sailed the last year with Jud Smith at the North Americans and Worlds, and now we all moved back a slot. This was my first race on the helm for the last 15 months. We went around the bottom marks like novices; we were just lucky that two good starts and good speed overcame that.

'This boat is beautifully set-up and is certainly fast, but our boat handling sucked. The way we got around the course today, if we'd had more breeze we might have killed someone.'

King, fresh from his second placing at the 2009 Worlds in Melbourne, showed that for his crew speed was not an issue, but that the tide was.

He commented 'the tide surprised us more than anything today... must have been up to two knots when we hit the top mark on the first leg of the second race. It could have been worse.

'We came into this regatta looking for top ten results in every race and today's 7 and 2 means with two keepers we are on track.'

Race 3 on Saturday afternoon started sensationally. Johnson was second boat at the top mark. King was 17th and series leader Gair was heading back to the dock. His and another 12 boats were black flagged at the start.

At the top mark Mooloolaba sailor Peter Hollis (Heaven Can Wait) rounded in first place. Johnson was second. With the help of his tactician Bucky Smith, who had sailed to victory with Jason Muir in the Melbourne Worlds, Hollis extended and held his lead to the finish line, crossing ahead of Johnson. Sydney sailor Jervis Tilley (Bushfire) followed, then Prentice and Clark. King finished the race 12th.

Dockside Johnson the series leader was smiling. ''We started conservatively, which was good today ... We had speed and we did not have anyone dump on us at all. Then we did a much better job today of getting down the runs.'

King looked relieved when he came ashore. 'We were lucky to escape with an 12th today. A boat that was later black flagged came in very fast on us at the start ... well over the line and buried us before withdrawing from the race.

'So we were not much better than mid-fleet at the first mark and had to work our way forward. Now we are half way through the regatta, so we will see how it goes tomorrow. We are just happy to be in the running. Tomorrow will be a big day.'

And he was right.

Going into the last day of the series Johnson was leading the regatta with 10 points ahead of Clark with 14 points and King on 22. Gair, the Day 1 leader, went into the day with 2, 1 and a Black Flag.

The number permutations and combinations of races sailed and who could finish where wereconsiderable, but everyone except Johnson, wanted a five race series.

Race 4 in the Musto series started in bright sunshine and a 12-14 knot north easterly. A clean start and 80 per cent of the fleet headed left towards the beach and came up on the port lay-line.

Matthew McCann's Carabella IV was first around, followed by Tilly, with Ross Lloyd's The Nurse in third. Clark was sixth; Johnson rounded 11th. The big surprise was Gair the Day 1 leader, who was 24th.

At the top mark for the second time Lloyd had moved into first place, with King now up in second, Tilley was third with Johnson sixth. Gair was 16th. Those places held to the finish.

The pressure was now on King and his Melbourne crew; they needed another top result to win the regatta.

The fifth Musto series Race 5 had a sensational start too when series leader Johnson was involved in a start line incident and withdrew from the race.

Gair was leading at the top mark with King hot on his tail. The leaders stayed close, but at the top mark for the last time, Gair came in from port, but King and Bradford sailed through him.

King came storming home across the finish line ahead of Mark Bradford's Roni, with Nigel Nattrass' Two Speed third. Gair was fourth and Graeme Taylor's Magpie fifth.

What had happened to the series leader at the start of the final race?

A dejected Johnson said 'we foolishly tried for the perfect Committee Boat end start. We were port boat in a port starboard. We did our 720, looked up and realised for our score to count, we had to do better than sixth. We could not possibly do it from there so the only thing we could do was to sit and watch the last race.

'Unfortunately we left a pretty good boat out on the course and they beat us with their final race win. But hey, we had no expectations at all so we are very happy with our second overall.'

Overall Barry (Damien King and crew James Ware, Simon Cunnington and Andrew Butler) won the regatta from Roulette (Mark Johnson, Nik Burfoot and Christian Allen) and Velsheda (Alastair Gair, Anna De Fluiter, David Ridley and Derek Scott). Gary Smith (Tusk) was fourth with Peter Hollis (Heaven Can Wait) fifth and Jervis Tilly (Bushfire) sixth.

Dockside there was some big grins.

King said 'this is our first ever big regatta win. Great for us after our Melbourne Worlds second. Even better in a chartered boat.

'We don't often focus on trying to win a race, but we certainly did that in the last race. We LOVE Mooloolaba!!'

Third placed Gair said 'race five we had a nice start, the big shift benefited the boats on the left, then on the last run we thought the right would work but it turned to custard, we finished fourth and that put us third overall.

'We know we did our best and so we have to be happy with that.'

For the thirteen Etchells Australian Winter Championships there have been thirteen different winners.

Dave Rose (1997), Russell Coutts (1998), Ian Johnston (1999), Julian Plante (2000), Michael Coxon (2001), Mark Bradford (2002), Cameron Appleton (2003), Grant Wharington (2004), Rob Brown (2005), Cameron Miles (2006), Skip Lissiman (2007), Graeme Taylor (2008) and now Damien King (2009).

Mooloolaba event manager Tracey Johnstone commented 'each year we wonder if one of the past winners might come to the fore.

'This year we had another top class 54-boat fleet and the runner up from the 2009 Worlds, Damien King, held out the 2008 North American Champion crew Mark Johnson and the 2006 Etchells Worlds runner up and New Zealand Champion Alastair Gair.

'While we acknowledge that part of the attraction of this event is the good Sunshine Coast winter weather and the popular venue, the quality of the fleet and the hotly contested racing is the major draw card.'

Full results at

Barry and Carabella IV head to the finish line in race four of the Musto Etchells Winters

"Barry and Carabella IV head to the finish line in race four of the Musto Etchells Winters"

Photo by:
Peter Duncan,


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