Defending champion to return for 20th anniversary Etchells Australasians Championship

The Etchells Australasians Championships’ first female winning skipper, Jeanne-Claude Strong, has committed to return in June with her Yandoo XX team in the hope of defending her 2015 title and create another historic class victory.
With the 20th anniversary trophy a powerful drawcard for the past and recent Australasian participants, Strong is pragmatic in her expectations of joining the exclusive two-time winning club which is currently solely occupied by Matthew Chew and his Gen XY team. Chew is the only skipper in the Australasians 19-year history to win the trophy for a second time. He won it in 2012 and 2014.
Strong recognises it will be a tough job to match Chew and his Gen XY team’s achievement. She expects her team will be up against a long start line for the big and very competitive fleet full of Etchells world champions, America’s Cup and Olympic class sailors.
“If you were to ask me what our chances were of winning last year; I thought the chances were quite low. In fact remarkably low. I am amazed we did win. Given that, the thought of winning again; it would be totally out of this world and unexpected.
“It’s always been difficult historically for anyone to win the championship more than once. The odds are low, but we are certainly going to be giving it our best,” Strong said.
Strong will have her usual team of Neville Wittey and Marcus Burke. As forward hand Tiana Wittey is caught up with her final school year, Strong is looking for a slight-sized sailor to take up that position for this year’s championship.
After finishing third in last month’s Etchells NSW Championship, Wittey has headed off sailing and Burke is on his honeymoon. Keen to keep her technical skills sharp the 2004 Yngling class World Champion will use the crew-free time to hop back on her Yngling with a few girlfriends to bank some on-water training time.
Once the crew are back in Sydney their on-water and fitness programs will resume in earnest.
“I am physically fit, so all I need to do now is learn to sail the boat faster all the time,” said the 65-year-old.
After the Australasians Strong and her team will return to Cowes, England, to collect her new boat and compete in the Invitational regatta in July ahead of the Etchells World Championships which starts August 31.
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