At the end of the week, 39 Etchells teams will be on the start line for Mooloolaba Yacht Club’s Evans Long 20th Etchells Australasian Championship.
At the close of entries, the list of skippers and crew is impressive in its quality and its representative breadth. Across the Australian fleets and even from New Zealand, they are heading to where the sun shines and the welcome westerly winds smooths the open water off Mooloolaba Beach.
Each of the teams of three or four-crew have their own motivation to be on the start line for the annual event. For some it’s another chance to race in the fleet with the best sailors in a true one-design class. For others, it’s the drive to put their hand on the championship trophy in its 20th year.
Whatever the motivation to race, whatever the other distractions of life that have kept some from a perfect preparation for the seven-race series, they are still all happily heading north to Mooloolaba with the rolling road caravan of boats on trailers heading into town with pace
Brisbane Fleet’s Matthew Chew, who is the only skipper to have tasted Mooloolaba victory twice, says he needs some time on the water with his long-term crew of Alex Gough, Ashley Deeks and Brian Donovan.
Chew has spent the first part of the year focused on a Moth class campaign which culminated with him competing in last month’s Moth World Championship in Hayama, Japan, finishing in 17th place.
While Moth racing is vastly different to Etchells racing, he admits the experience has taught him to deal with pressure, particularly when he was in among the top 10 of the world championship fleet that contained Olympic and world champion sailors.
Back on the Etchells for his 12th Australasian championship, the focus is on getting the boat and the crew ready for the anniversary regatta. “The boat has been neglected a little bit lately,” Chew said.
The GEN XY team also have some weight to lose. Only about four kilos, but with an overall weight limit of 285kg, every kilo counts.
North Sails Mark Bradford, who was the championship winning skipper in 2002, is another who is fast-tracking his team’s championship preparation after spending a lot of time recently working on the preparations for the start of the 70-foot Black Jack offshore and Sydney Hobart Race program.
“We have spent a lot of energy on Black Jack. That said, we have also been busy in Brisbane with the Etchells fleet growing due to the world championship to be held here in 2018,” Bradford said.
“The interest in the class here is pretty big and we have a lot of new people coming in. We have spent a lot of our time with them, talking about how to tune the Etchells and the rig.
“That’s been our focus, more than our own winter campaign.”
The unforgiving weekend weather has stolen Bradford’s last-minute training time so it looks like he may only have the registration day to shake off the big-boat focus and tune back into one design racing before the championship starts.
Australian Sailing Team’s Performance Director Peter Conde was another skipper who had planned to use last weekend training at Mooloolaba before the east coast got hammered by storms.
He’s been off his Etchells for several months due to his intense travel schedule to Europe and Brazil as he leads the Australian sailors towards the Rio Olympics. There was also some repair work to be done to his boat before he could race it again.
“Our last event was the nationals where we managed to drop our rig,” Conde said.
With the repairs completed and a small window of time opening up for him to participate in the action rather than directing it, he is looking forward to the intense three-day competition.
“The timing works quite well for my program commitments and it’s going to be high quality competition,” Conde added.
Racing in the Evans Long 20th Etchells Australasian Championship starts on Friday June 10 and goes through to Sunday June 12.