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It's not the boat - it's the plan

14 September 2010 John Curnow

Out in front is always a nice place to be.

"Out in front is always a nice place to be."

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Jake Gunther, the Melbourne Fleet Captain, usually sails his Etchells called, The Boat. I got a chance to speak with Jake recently and listen to how the Etchells World Championships in Ireland and a very tidy fifth place came about for him.
"The new boat seemed to be the best solution, as it was relatively cheaper and good value due to the GFC still being felt in Europe and especially Ireland. She's a proven performer, even though she's had two years sitting in a field and resembled more of a garden ornament, rather than a top level yacht", said Jake.

The boat in question is a four-year-old Ontario, known as Dawn Raid and she won the 2007 Worlds. Jake bought the boat together with John Collingwood and is presently on her way back to Melbourne. She should be here by mid October and then Jake's brother Stephen will drive it with John onboard, who is part of his regular crew. "Having in mind that boats spend a lot time on hardstands in the salt, maybe it was no too bad at all that there were daisies growing in the bilge", Jake added with a smile.

Dawn Raid was sent it to local boat builder who cleaned up 90% of the mess and when they saw her for the first time it looked like a racing boat should - mast and standing rigging were all OK. New North sails arrived in John's Bertrand's container, they did all the cordage and went yachting, wherein they bedded it all down stretched the boat in and found no problems whatsoever. "Sure we broke stuff, but then we fixed them too", Jake said. They had two days on the water prior to the Irish Nationals and a week in between. "That was enough of a shakedown. We spent two whole days after the Irish titles pulling everything apart and putting it all back again, then sailed everyday till the end of the Worlds."

So that's the boat, but what about the plan? "I was going with Mark Bulka originally to be in the middle of his boat. Brand new fatherhood has slowed the racing activity of the Bulka Team down for a bit. I was kind of left at bar at the Royal Brighton Yacht Club on my own. I had already said I was going, no matter what and then John Collingwood said 'I'm in'. We recruited Ben Morrison-Jack for the pointy end and started training on every available day - three times a week for six weeks prior to departing, which is a pretty good achievement for July on Port Phillip!"

So out of a change of situation came a good plus and "I got to drive too", a delighted Jake commented. It was during the training on Port Phillip when "the procurement process occurred and we sorted out our airfares, accommodation and other crucial logistics." Jake then elaborated that it was actually his second World title for the year and in addition to aiming to get to two of those a year; he also tries to do two National titles, as well. Actually, if you back calculate, it was his third overseas regatta for the year with the NZ Etchells, then Croatia for the Finn and finally, Ireland for the Etchells. I think he might just know a little about how to get a campaign organised.

Now that is a wonderful segue to talk about the campaign on the water, which is where it all happens. "It was a big snakes and ladders course. You could get yourself back into the mix by judiciously recognising advantages and then going and nailing them on the next opportunity, not getting a frozen head and throwing the towel in. Big recoveries were always possible", he said.

They certainly studied the local tide charts, but it was mainly the depths they concentrated on. Jake likes to stay on the cooler side out there and not just in the stress factor, but clothing too. Overall thermals and coastal gear got them through, but they certainly put an extra jacket on for the gaps between races.

"We did a lot of time over distance practice before the event, to work out our run times. Earlier on, I had done a lot of work in the Finn with my coach Johnnie Rogers, trying to improve line awareness and pre-start boat handling, learning how to own your space and control everyone else around you. One of the main things for us was never being afraid to attack other boats and always knowing where the line is from the use of transits."

"Stemming from that was the all-important ability of pulling the trigger, at exactly the right time for us. Starting at the Worlds is a bit different to a club race, as they tend to rack up a bit more, rather than the charge. Tides were another nasty factor in the process and it was essential to understand how many boat lengths per minute it was flowing at", Jake went on to explain.
"Race it like your Finn, Jake", John Collingwood said to him, "Sail it as you feel it!" Perhaps this why every day there was a smile on the dial post racing. "Our results were good, with no real dramas to rave on about. Well apart from the first race, where we sailed by committee, which proved to be a severely flawed theory!!!!! That was changed very quickly for Race Two, which got up to 40knots. I loved it and kept telling myself that it was nowhere near as tough as 25 in the Finn." It can't have been too bad, because they got a second for their trouble!

In summing it all up, Jake was quick to say, "Consistency pays. I love a bit of single digits on the scoreboard and we don't try to punch the corners too aggressively, especially with the sorts of tides we had in Ireland. We sailed well together and had a had a great time."

Back in Melbourne now, a wine and pasta evening at Leos on Fitzroy Street in St Kilda with regular crew Stuart Skeggs and Tony McPhail beckons, where they'll be looking at what the next part of the process is. Should be fun, is all I'll add - both the dinner and the plan that stems from it.

Doesn't look warm to me.

"Doesn't look warm to me."

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