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Goodbye, but absolutely not farewell

12 May 2020 Phil Smidmore

Talking Etchells - Grant Simmer, Doug McCain, Steve Jarvin and Phil Smidmore

"Talking Etchells - Grant Simmer, Doug McCain, Steve Jarvin and Phil Smidmore"

Photo by:
Kylie Wilson,

Although season 2019-20 ended early, all scheduled Etchells regattas were completed. It is sad that Mooloolaba is cancelled for this year, but there is much to look forward to in 20-21. The order book remains healthy with a number of orders and boats presently in build.

Over summer, the building of new boats continued, whilst on the water it was again another successful year for boats from the new mould. The quality of the finish, and fit out of these boats is really first class. Congratulations to not only the various championship winners and podium finishers, but also to everyone who participated, especially those sailing as Corinthians. The depth of talent in the Etchells makes it a tough task to finish in the top ten.

With the current long break in sailing, now is a good time to look at your boat and give it a good freshen up. I have stocks of tapered sheets, halyards and many custom and proprietary fittings to help you make sure everything is in top working order for when you hit the racetrack once more.

After 25 years and some 200 boats, I will be retiring as the Australian Etchells Builder in about September, when our current orders are completed. The Etchells is a great class, and it has been an honour and a privilege to have been the class builder. I was one of the first people to sail an Etchells in Australia, having been invited for a sail on KA1 when she was first launched. My fit out of Etchells goes back to 1977 when I assisted with the fit out of KA87, and crewed on it in the Etchells Worlds at Pittwater in Jan 1978, where we finished in fourth place.

After returning from the 1983 America’s Cup, I was approached by Syd Corser who was establishing the Perth Fleet, to fit out several boats. Thanks to Syd’s great selling efforts, which several turned into over 20 vessels, and over the next 12 years I fitted out over 200 Etchells for Pamcraft and then Bashford. In 1995, along with a partner, Tony Doyle, I formed Pacesetter Etchells to become Australia’s licensed builder. Those early years were golden with us producing 18 and 20 boats per year.

We delivered 11 new boats (including one for myself) to the New Zealand Worlds in 2002. Tony retired in 2004 and I took over the business. In 2009, the Australian Association, which has always owned the moulds, decided to build new moulds, and I teamed up with Innovation Composites, which is headed by Mark Rowed, to build the new moulds and new boats. Mark will take over as the licensed builder, and I know he will even further improve on the great quality of boats now being built.

It was during the Bashford era that we began building our own masts, an enterprise I carried on when I took over the boat building. All up, I have built 620 masts, many of which were exported. I am immensely proud of my record of both boats and masts, and the successes achieved by them. In the mast-building department, I have been so fortunate to have had one very skilled man cut and weld every single one! I’m not so sure he wants to be reminded of his great work during those 25 years.

I have had a lot of fun building and sailing Etchells, and there are many people I have to thank for all the great times I have had. Especially my customers, many of whom have bought multiple boats from me.

The Etchells Class owes a huge debt to the many class officers, and behind the scenes volunteers who put in countless unpaid hours to keep the class afloat, both on the water and on the land. I have been so lucky to know so many of them, and still cannot believe their dedication.

Despite retiring as the Etchells builder, it is not goodbye. I am not retiring from work. I will still be operating my shipwright and rigging company, Smidmore Yachting Services Pty Ltd, and will still be offering Etchells as either a full turn key package, or fitted to whatever stage you want. I will still be making and stocking all the various spars, rigging and parts including tapered sheets, halyards, spinnaker boxes, trailers & trailer boxes, etc, as well as doing repair and maintenance work on the boats.

One of my main aims has always been to produce a top level boat that is capable of winning races straight out of the box for many years there after, and at a price that allows as many people as possible to sail Etchells. That philosophy, which applies to the various parts, as well as the complete boat, will not change.

Good Sailing,
Phil Smidmore.


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