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Just how good does it get?

3 May 2019 John Curnow

Noel Drennan with Billy Merrington, and Lewis Brake during the 2019 Etchells Australian Championship at RQYS

"Noel Drennan with Billy Merrington, and Lewis Brake during the 2019 Etchells Australian Championship at RQYS"

Photo by:
John Curnow

Unequivocally, this last season is a standout for me. It is not that the previous ones had any major problems. It is simply that in the one period of time I was fortunate enough to be at the World, then Australian, New South Wales, and finally Victorian Championships. It was more than enough to remind oneself of the saying, ‘It’s good work when you can get it.’

Well it certainly is, but it also meant that I got time with the likes of Kevin and Ross Wilson, Louise Davis, Peter Walsh, along with their Race Management teams. There were also the officials, as well as the countless and tireless volunteers from the respective clubs, too. So a big thank you to all of you for making it happen, and spending time with me when I needed it. Cheers.

Equally, I got to see so many sailors again, and meet greats like Laurie Smith and Steve Benjamin for the firs time. This was terrific, and that all of you would speak with me at length, and answer numerous questions, even be interviewed to file or film, meant a lot, so thank you, too.

My great friend, Nev Wittey, needs a special mention at this juncture, as too the crews he works with. Jeanne-Claude Strong’s 1435, and the crews of Magpie and Havoc were so inclusive and gave me special access, so cheers to you. Nev, I enjoyed sharing insights, gaining access to your thoughts and information, smiling, laughing, and knowing I could rely on you. Nice one, pal...

Throughout the passage of the Summer there was one particular element that became so clear, so visible, and definitively real. It was the number of new crews of non-Etchellians that had formed, and also the ones who were youth by DOB, or simply at heart. These were the standouts. Some were coming back to Etchells after a spell. Some had been in there and swinging for ages, and brought new sailors in to bolster the brownie point stocks for their regular crew, but it was amazing.

The only thing that surpassed it was hearing the same points, virtually in unison from all of these teams: True One Design level playing field, the intensity of the competition, the amount of things to learn to gain your 0.01 of a knot, the sharing nature of the fleet, the outright fun, and then mixing it with, and sometimes beating, some of the very best going around.

Without any doubt, this was wonderful to be there to witness first hand. It augurs well for the future, and it is clearly part of the reason the Etchells attract such huge numbers to events. It has always been clear that Etchells sailing is not entirely exclusive of other vessels.

Indeed, so many sailors are there from so many other OTB, inshore, and offshore classes, across a massive speed band, and to chat with Tom Slingsby in Geelong about all of that was great. The former Etchells World Champion (with John Bertrand and Andrew Palfrey) said at the time, "Yeah sailing Etchells does still bring a smile to the dial. I love this sort of racing. Since SailGP, I have sailed Moths, Lasers, and RC44s. One Design, foiling - I really enjoy it all. The tight tactical racing is a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed sailing with Jeanne-Claude Strong, and her crew of Marcus Burke and Kate Devereux this week." (They placed third in the championship.)

"It is a bit of trip when you're doing six knots, not 40. For sure it takes a long time to get your head around it, as the strategy and tactics change a lot. I enjoy that challenge. I do not ever want to be typecast. When I was younger I was referred to as a Laser sailor only, and it drove me nuts. So I set about proving that theory wrong, and started sailing Moths and A-Class cats, and people could see I could convert to new classes. I still have classes that are my bread and butter, and I am a bit more natural in, but I definitely want to be known as someone who can swap around."

In closing then, I spoke recently with the incredibly qualified Noel Drennan, who was ready for a chat about being back in Australia, and working with North Sails once again. He arrived not to long before the Worlds, and was fourth overall on board John Bertrand’s Triad2, with Ben Lamb on the bow. Nitro then backed that up by being on the helm of Les Freaks Sont Chics, with Billy Merrington on main and emerging Finn star Lewis Brake up for’ard. They placed sixth overall for that one.

Drennan commented, “It is good to be part of the Australian scene again. It is very much alive and buoyant, which is wonderful to see. Since all the racing we have been doing, we’ve been working pretty hard with the North Sails team in USA, based on all our efforts to date with the sails developed in Sydney. It is ongoing, of course, and we are fortunate with our cross cut sails being so good, if we want to make the radials the preferred choice for our clients across all weather conditions and sea states. Many have helped with the development, like Martin Hill and John Bertrand by utilizing our radial jobs and providing great feedback.”

So from me to all of you associated with Etchells, cheers, thanks, see you soon, and...

Rock on,
John Curnow

Dirk van der Struyf’s Animal House at the 2019 Etchells Australian Championship, with crew from RGYC, Ben O'Brien and James Hannah who were the Corinthian winners and placed eight overall

"Dirk van der Struyf’s Animal House at the 2019 Etchells Australian Championship, with crew from RGYC, Ben O'Brien and James Hannah who were the Corinthian winners and placed eight overall"

Photo by:
John Curnow


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