A top class fleet of 55 Etchells begins three days of intense racing today off Mooloolaba in Queensland, with a six-race series for the 13th annual Musto Winter National Championship.
Among the sailors on the start line are the 2004 World Champion skipper Peter McNeil and crew Greg Torphy, 2009 World Champion crew Bucky Smith and Matthew Chew as well as a host of other World and National champions, Olympians, America's Cup and Volvo Round the World sailors.
Favourites include last year's Mooloolaba series winner Graeme Taylor from Melbourne; Victorian Damien King, who finished second in the hard fought 2009 Etchells world championships on Port Phillip in Melbourne; as well as Julian Plante, Mark Bulka, David Clark, Mark Johnston, Vaughan Prentice, Peter Hollis, Mark Bradford and international sailors Alastair Gair (NZL) and Mark Thornborrow (HKG).
Trevor Martin, the local Etchells fleet captain, says the Musto Mooloolaba Winter Nationals are an institution on the Asia Pacific sailing calendar.
“Over 80 per cent of the fleet is from interstate or overseas. When you think the 2009 world championships were held in Melbourne in March, it's a strong support vote for this event and a pretty amazing back-up for these sailors for whom holiday time is precious.”
The first Winter Championship was conducted in Mooloolaba in 1997. It attracted 25 boats and was won by Brisbane skipper David Rose, who will be on starting line again this year.
Since the first regatta the event has grown from strength to strength with previous winners including a 'who's who' of international sailing. Russell Coutts (1998), Ian Johnston (1999), Julian Plante (2000), Michael Coxon (2001), Mark Bradford (2002), Cameron Appleton (2003), Grant Wharington (2004), Rob Brown (2005), Cameron Miles (2006), Skip Lissiman (2007) and Graeme Taylor (2008) have all proudly held the Etchells Australian Winter Championship trophy.
The runners-up have been well-known too, and include John Bertrand, Grant Simmer, Iain Murray, Colin Beashel and Noel Drennan.
Trevor Martin says the Winter Championship is about giving all Etchells skippers and crews the chance to enjoy top class competition. Mooloolaba is one of the few harbours in Australia to offer quick, easy access to the ocean.
The 2009 event is based out of The Wharf complex at Mooloolaba, with all competing boats to be berthed at the marina during the event.
The format consists of six races conducted over three days, with one discard permitted from each boat's overall score if five or more races are completed.
Local business support – The following Sunshine Coast businesses have supported the event for many years, some since its inception 12 years ago:
Sunshine Coast Regional Council, Newport Apartments, Sun Air Bus Services, Sunsport Marine, Ullman Sails, Waterfront & Coastal Property, Sunshine Sailing Australia, Quest Photos, North Coast Signs, The Wharf and The Wharf Tavern.
By Event Media
For results and more information, visit www.mooetchells.yachting.org.au.