International Etchells Class Association of Australia Inc
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Dear Association Member,

Update 3.
Further information relating to Special General Meeting 7 December 2019

Further to the Special General Meeting on December 7, 2019 concerning proposed changes to Class Rules, we propose to share relevant contributions including:

  • Rationale for removal of the Annual Sail Acquisition Limit from Chris Hampton, IECA Vice Chairman;
  • Need for Sail Royalty Income from Jim Cunningham, IECA Chairman;
  • Proposed system for Sail Measurement from Andrew Palfrey, Class Governor;
  • Sailmakers perspective from both Doyle Sails and North Sails;
  • IECA Recommendations

Anyone interested in making their own contribution should email the Class Secretary, Sherri Campbell at

The first post concerns the removal of the annual sail acquisition limit and will be available shortly. The others will be released on finalization and in advance of the December meeting.

Jim Cunningham
IECA Chairman

Rationale for Removal of the Annual Sail Acquisition Limit

It is encouraging to see a considered discussion now underway on the proposed rule change. It would have been preferable to commence this at fleet level with a detailed position paper. We are however a volunteer association and as usual the load falls on a few to drive any initiative. We know that the proposals represent a major change from tradition and are controversial.

The positive is that Etchells Owners and Associates are now engaged and that the conversation is in full swing with discussions recently held at the UK Nationals in Cowes and open forums planned for forthcoming events including the Piana Cup at Miami in December, the Australian National Championship at Brighton in January and the NSW State Championship at Lake Macquarie in February.

The following observations are worthy of note:

Fleet racing

  • Almost everyone uses ex regatta sails for fleet racing other than when testing new sails. There is no arms race at fleet level;
  • With fleet racing the courses are typically shorter and it is all about skill (starting well, picking the wind shifts, tuning the rig and trimming sails optimally, managing the fleet ...), rather than requiring the latest model or newest sails;
  • To the extent owners over-capitalise on new sails for fleet racing they are arguably wasting money. Under a royalty system they will at least be helping to fund the Class. If there is a perception of an advantage in any particular fleet, that fleet is free to introduce its own rules;
  • Fleet teams do not usually use their annual six sail acquisition limit and tend to only participate in national and world events when they are conducted locally;
  • These teams will have fresh sails available to them whenever they choose to compete in regional, national or world championships. They are in as good a position as anyone else and would not require additional sails to remain competitive in the event of the removal of the acquisition limit;
  • Fleet teams would not be disadvantaged from the removal of the sail acquisition limit.


  • Everyone will start Race One of a world championship with fresh sails unless they elect otherwise;
  • Those that compete in multiple events nationally and in some cases internationally, need to manage their participation to ensure that they have competitive sails available at championships;
  • The first priority is to have the best sails available for the world championship. These sails will be no fresher than those available to local teams that are competing in the same event;
  • How to achieve this outcome? For those with one boat, they may choose not to participate in certain events. For those with multiple boats, they may be in a position to move boats around to reduce the problem;
  • For example, the next world championship is being held in Perth, Western Australia in November 2020. At a sail management level the first priority is to set aside five of the six new sails available in 2020 for the Perth World Championship. Preceding this, Australian sanctioned events include:
    • 2020 Nationals in January;
    • NSW States in February;
    • Victorian States in March;
    • Australasian Winters in June;
    • Syd Corser on the World’s racecourse in September;
    • Pre-Worlds in November 2020;
  • Some owners have the capacity and interest in competing in most of these regattas and will need to rely on their carryover sails from 2019 that have done multiple events. As a rule they are not prepared to do championships with uncompetitive sails and will need to allow for the likelihood of some races occurring in sail damaging winds. A common response for 2020 is to delete the NSW State and Australasian Winter Championships from their program, contributing to a reduction in entry levels;
  • This disadvantage is lessened for those who own multiple boats and are able to move them around accordingly. They will however incur additional cost and inconvenience and will not start the World Championship with any fresher sails than any other competitor. It is worth noting that the one design classes that are succeeding internationally, including the J70, J24, Melges, Star and Dragons in Europe, are the ones without sail acquisition limits;
  • Teams most disadvantaged by the current rules are those that compete in multiple events.

Other observations

  • Sharing has evolved with the one boat being sailed intensively by different helms and crew over the course of a year, especially with youth teams. These different teams are required to share the same six new sails each year. It would be preferable if each team was permitted its own sail allocation. The sharing of boats lowers the barriers for entry into Etchells sailing and should be encouraged as a means of introducing new entrants into the Class;
  • Having gone through the process of preserving the new 2020 sail allocation for the World Championship, it is noted that others may not have experienced the same limitations through involvement in non-sanctioned events. While these other competitors will have no fresher sails available at the World Championship, they may not have been forced to limit participation in events or race with uncompetitive sails. One response could be to push for these events to be conducted with measured sails. However, such pressure is unlikely to succeed and will only serve to quicken the decline in participation.

Status quo

  • Statements advanced for the retention of the current system include “level playing field”, “protect investment” and “has served us well”;
  • The facts are that the playing field is not currently level, no one loses any value in their sails from removal of the acquisition limit and overall participation is in decline;
  • Much of the opposition to the proposed changes is driven by concern in other areas including the cost of new boats, recent innovations and the dominance of well funded teams with professional crew;
  • The proposed changes should be considered on their merits. Although not the solution to all issues, the changes will serve to establish a better platform for the Etchells Class to move forward. They are also consistent with and supportive of the widely held aspiration to support corinthians, promote youth teams and rebuild fleet participation.


  • Etchells regattas worldwide would be brought back into the fold and conducted under the same rules. There would be no need for events to be conducted as non-sanctioned. Campaigning teams would no longer need to own multiple boats, except for geographic considerations, or push the spirit of rules that do not accommodate their requirements;
  • North Sails and Doyle Sails both agree that:
    • the current system encourages hoarding of sails, and
    • the removal of the acquisition limit would create a vibrant second hand market that would provide non-campaigners the ability to acquire quality sails at a fraction of the cost;
  • Andrew Palfrey recently stated that "the most effective way of improving the competitiveness of older boats and teams operating on low budgets is to provide them with reasonable sails at low cost". This will be achieved if the proposed change is adopted;
  • Royalty revenue will provide a dedicated pool of funds for strategic investment in the Class. The biggest beneficiaries will be youth teams, Corinthians, low budget teams and fleet participation.


  • Sail equality will be achieved by the removal of the acquisition limit. No one will have an advantage over their fellow competitors and everyone will compete on an even footing. Those teams that compete in more events help the Class and underwrite the success of those events. They have a legitimate need for additional sails and, importantly, are not arriving at events with any fresher sails than those who compete in fewer events. However with the sail royalty system in place, as teams purchase more sails they fund more of the Class. The fleets, Corinthians, youth and low budget teams will all be supported to a greater extent, a "win win" without detriment to anyone.

We encourage members to review the proposals in the context of what is best for the future of the Etchells Class worldwide.

Chris Hampton
IECA Vice Chairman


2019/2020 Milson Silver Goblets
Sydney, RSYS
18 - 22 November 2019

2019/2020 Australian Championship
Brighton, RBYC
7 - 12 January 2020

2019/2020 SA State Championship
Adelaide, RSAYS
1- 2 February 2020

2019/2020 NSW State Championship
Lake Macquarie, LMYC
21- 23 February 2020

2019/2020 VIC State Championship
Brighton, RBYC
6 - 9 March 2020

2020 World Championship
November 2020

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