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Doing our thing…

11 February 2018 John Curnow

Doing our thing – their way!

"Doing our thing – their way!"

Now if you have been watching of late, their thing is pretty noticeable. It’s the kind that sees you on the podium. A lot, actually. Of course, the other thing about being at the pointy end of any fleet is that you did not just show up and hey presto, you were rounding marks with some of the best known sailors the globe has ever produced.

No. It takes a plan. It takes years of work out on the water, and it takes a relentless passion to improve – all the time. Our thing (AUS 1446) is Dave Turton’s latest Etchells. It is a Phil Smidmore hull that he elected to fit out himself, which is why it was delivered in December 2016, and almost took a year to hit the water. Why is this so? Simply, like just about everybody I speak with these days, he’s got a bit on, and that’s not just with his Etchells programme.

Turton started in the Etchells as an 18 year old, some 30 years ago at Mooloolaba. He sailed in the previous Brisbane Worlds, as well as the ones staged out of Mooloolaba. The lure of the big boats held sway for some time, but in a mark of the dedication to the class, he stepped away from all of that to focus on the Etchells, kid duties, and his other passion, the sea.

This year, Turton’s Seabin project has gone into production, with the entire first year’s units already accounted for, as some 70 countries scramble to get their hands on the former banker, now qualified Marine Ecologist’s automated marina rubbish collector. There’s one for turning the tide on plastics – right there!

So fresh off an impressive second place at the Etchells Australian Championship at Fremantle in the new boat, it is important to see how Dave, Josh Torpy and Klaus Lorenz have come together to have a serious crack at all that is laid before them. To do so, we got to ask Torpy what it was like and how it all came to pass.

Like many others, Torpy is a product of North Sails. Equally, so many of the team spend a lot of time in the Etchells Class, all over the world. Torpy is no different in this regard, but there is also a very strong family element that kind of ensured he would be around Etchells, no matter what.

Specifically, Torpy is part of the Brisbane loft, which has just recently gone under the head office umbrella. “I started with North Sails in 2010. I did my trade, then worked on Phil Turner’s RP66, Alive, for six months as their sail maker. I also did six months of high end building renovations, before returning to the family at North Sails Brisbane late in 2016, and I’ve been here since.”

“I’ve been sailing Etchells since 2008. Working at North Sails means that I’ve been on a great range of boats between 12 to 100 foot, completing four Hobarts, and too many East Coast regattas and ocean races to count.”

“I’ve always fallen back to Etchells as my father, Greg, has always called them ‘The great leveller’. He has sailed them very well for as long as I can remember, and probably before I can remember. Dad winning the 2004 Worlds in Mooloolaba was a great inspiration, and he is a wealth of information for Dave and I as our coach. Looking forward we just couldn’t ask for any more.”

Torpy (junior) first sailed with Turton when the former was just a boy, and 1m RC yachts were the weapons of choice. In 2008, Turton owned a Flying Tiger 10, and Torpy says of that, “I cut my teeth doing the bow for him in Mooloolaba, and from then we sailed again on Wild Thing and also Alive for the last four years.”

“When I heard he was putting together a campaign for the worlds in Brisbane, it was a no brainer to get involved. Klaus became involved due to his great dinghy career, and continuing skills development in the Etchells class. He’s deeply involved in the tactics, and I am doing more tune and speed. We are very early stages in the Etchells scene so it’s a great feeling that the work we are putting in is going in the right direction with the strong finish in Perth at the Australian Championship.”

“I’m really looking forward to the lead up ahead of the 2018 World Championship, and servicing the Brisbane Fleet from here at North Sails. We have seen the numbers grow over recent years, and the more we work together and share what we learn with the sails and the boats, the fleet will move forward in leaps and bounds. This is especially with guys like Vaughan (Prentice) and ‘Squark’ (Mark Bradford) as part of the equation, for their knowledge base when it’s comes to Etchells is second to none”, said Torpy.

Indeed in that big lead up to the Worlds, the Brisbane Loft, as well as the North Sails group, is working hard not only to prepare the customers, but the area as well.

As we have seen, there is a real passion emanating from this crew, and not just for sailing, but also the outdoors and marine environment. Turton quite possibly epitomises this, and in addition to having a real crack at their sailing, they also have a sense of humour.

Just take the name. Our Thing. It comes from an induction scene into the mob as part of ‘The Sopranos’. It is a truncation from words to the effect, ‘This thing of ours comes before anything else...” And you can see the full extraction at

So you can appreciate the sentiment, for sailing is an addiction. Turton comments, “We’re running a programme to get better one click at a time, each time we go racing. The Fleet has so many incredible sailors and its depth means it is never easy times. So we are about improvement! We have two young blokes who are keen, and I am giving them the opportunity to do the best they can and I am getting dragged along for the ride.

Of course, a previous boat was name Harold Holt, and one before that, Etchellence, so expect this crew to be serious competitors and great folk around the boat park. In terms of that competition, the crew will be there for the NSW and VIC State Championships, then Mooloolaba, the Brisbane Fleet Titles and all the Qualifiers at RQ with AUS 1446, with AUS 885 (This thing of ours) that recently had a full freshen up, remaining local for club racing alone.

Always a good thing when the fleet is behind you

"Always a good thing when the fleet is behind you"


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