The beautifully restored former America's Cup challenger Gretel II will return to yacht racing this coming Saturday with the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron on Sydney Harbour.
Gretel II will line-up in the competitive Division 1, with a fleet of 106 yachts so far entered in four mixed divisions and in the one-design Etchells, Dragon and Yngling classes for the opening day of the summer season of 2009-2010.
Owner Michael Maxwell has brought the wooden International 12-metre class yacht back to racing condition after purchasing the America's Cup challenger of 1970 and 1977 from the Sydney Heritage Fleet in 2005.
The Alan Payne-designed yacht was skippered by Squadron member Sir James Hardy in the 1970 Challenge by the RSYS for the America's Cup and after being remodeled, another Squadron member Gordon Ingate led a so-called ‘dad's army' challenge in 1977. Ingate later donated Gretel II to the Sydney Heritage fleet.
There should be interesting competition for line honours in Division 1 between Gretel 2 and Charles Curran's Sydney 60 Sydney.
Another new entry in Division 1 is Vino, a Farr 36 entered by Chris Hancock and Gary Geitz. Division 1 will also see the increasingly popular class of Sydney 36s represented by Peter Campbell (iSuper) and Graeme Lambert (Impetuous Too) competing with one another as part of the overall fleet.
The Squadron will run a separate pointscore if there are sufficient entries from the Sydney 36 class. IRC will also figure prominently at the Squadron with a separate pointscore run as part of the Division 1 competition.
Division 2 continues to attract an eclectic mix of 35 footers and will also see the classic Peterson 44 ocean racer Inch by Winch, sailed by Andrew Wenham, actively racing.
Division 3 contains many classic half tonners, including Sydney Hobart Race winner Zeus II, skippered by former RSYS Commodore Jim Dunstan, but has also attracted boats ranging from a J24 to the beautiful modified Etchells of Charles Moore.
Division 4 will see last season's champion, Kerstin II (Ken Chase, Ken Chase and John Goldie) and the Bonbridge 27 Hornblower, sailed by Steve Sweeney and (occasionally) Peter Campbell, joining a fleet that includes Folkboats and Hood 23s.
There is increased interest in the Etchells class with the World Championships to be conducted by the Squadron in 2012. Farr 30 World Champion Guy Stening is planning an entry. Jan Muysken has a new boat, Jazasa, and Alchemist, sailed by Richard Hammond and Roger Gain, has joined the fleet, expected to number 35 boats.
The Squadron has arguably the most competitive Etchells fleet sailing in Australia, providing competitors with great preparation for a World Championship bid.
In the Dragons, Robert Alpe has his new boat, Indulgence, entered for the season and Forever Young, sailed by Gavin Moss and Anthony Armstrong, has joined the fleet. The Yngling fleet contains the usual suspects from previous years.
During the summer season, the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron will conduct the Australian Championships for Farr 40 class and the Ynglings, along with State Championships for Etchells, Dragons, Sydney 38s, Sydney 32s Folkboats and Ynglings.
– Peter Campbell