QLD State Championship

If practice makes perfect, then look out 2018!

6 October 2014 Author: John Curnow
Bill Cuneo, Ash Deeks, Matt Chew in disguise and Brian Donovan with the trophy that will carry their names for another year

 Bill Cuneo, Ash Deeks, Matt Chew in disguise and Brian Donovan with the trophy that will carry their names for another year
© John Curnow

The 2014 Etchells Queensland Championship has been raced and won. Well done to the crew of Gen XY. Others to feature in one way or another were all the crews, the volunteers and of course, the weather. So you do get the impression that the genuine hospitality that awaits all visitors here is just the beginning and shows that the Brisbane Etchells Fleet is pretty much on track to hold a glamour World Championship in 2018.

One point separated the top two overnight and today was always going to be about seeing who could do what to win. Gen XY and Fifteen+ would be going for it naturally, but lurking there to seize an opportunity would be Mark Johnson, Andrew Smith and Nick Burfoot on Roulette. Indeed Johnson is so impressed with the venue and racetrack that he has decide to leave the boat here at the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron for a while and come back and race regularly with the locals.

The morning was quite steamy, for the breeze was gentle, so the tow out to the course was quite probably the fastest part of the day. Thankfully, once there, the squirt built to maybe sometimes make 12knots by the end of racing and hover just either side of dead North. What it also meant was even though there would be tide ranging from 2 knots at the start of the day down to just 0.5 when it was all over, there would be no real seaway to speak of. Nice. Glory days indeed!

Promptly at 1100hrs the preparatory signals were sounded. It would be Course Two to start off, which meant that the fleet would have to work back uphill after their two laps to get tot the finish. The breeze was a soft 6-8 knots from 355degrees, which meant that they would set a range of 0.9 nautical miles for the fleet to traverse. Most of the betting seemed to be that there would be a General Recall to get proceedings of for the day, but that was well premature, for it was a clean start.

Tusk and Land Rat shot away nicely from the pin end of the line, Rolls Rocks did well at the boat end and Yandoo XX was the first to tack over and run out to the right. Indeed Tusk and Land Rat were too keen and had to go back through the line once more for penance. In the centre, Roulette was getting on with being at the front, with the vast majority heading out to the right to catch some of the Northerly running tide. Meanwhile, just four were seeing if the slightly stronger breeze on the left would offer them some advantage. Already, it was clear that series leaders Gen XY and Fifteen+ were going to be very, very much in close proximity to each other. Bootross was with Roulette making a fist of the left and seeing if they could stage of the right-handers.

Halfway up it was clear that those in the centre of the right had won the day, well so far, as YEP learned the hard way. Leading the charge was Jeanne-Claude Strong, Peter McNeill and Marcus Burke on Yandoo XX, with local boat, Forceful also in there. A big group coming from even further right included Rapscallion. Yandoo XX had put a little too much in the bank, as indeed had all the others, which included, The Boat, in their fray. Given the tide, you could not really blame them, however.

Second around was Forceful, then The Boat, Tuco, Rapscallion, Roulette, Odyssey, The Greater Fool, Bootross and finally, Fifteen+ and Gen XY, which proves that when you get involved in arm wrestle you get slow. What was a surprise was that the race leader decided to gybe and come back in, where as just a few like Rapscallion and Tuco were off to Green Island. Indeed halfway back down, no one was ready yet to come back and see both of the Interstaters who had stayed on the Eastern side and they stayed there to come back in on an interesting angle. Yandoo XX decided to gybe and go to the Western mark of the bottom gate and it was now that local boat Forceful could be seen as the front-runner from those that had gone in to Green Island. Rapscallion and Bootross were also there. Roulette took second, Forceful for third, then Tuco and The Boat, The Greater Fool and others like Odyssey. For Forceful it was a bad time. They hit the mark and had to exonerate later with the obligatory penalty turn. As you can tell, Fifteen+ and Gen XY were not in the higher echelons of the top ten, as per usual.

Ronin was one of but a few that chose the other gate to go around, but at least it was not congested over there and the East was favoured. Gen XY split from Fifteen+ here and went East and it would be around half the work before they saw each other once more. Fifteen+ had put around four boat lengths over Gen XY. Other changes were that it was now around 10knots from just either side of true North at that time and it put a little chop on the surface, as well.

Being slightly underweight and in the light conditions had suited Yandoo XX and they skipped away from Roulette, but both were well in front of the remainder by the time they all got to the top once more. It was here that the course boat had had to become the hitch mark due to a failing in the ground tackle of the mark itself.

Race Officer Guy Morton said, "We ran East of Green Island today, which is where the 2018 Worlds will be held. There is more tide in that spot, as we saw in the second race, the fleet was quicker going up than coming down under spinnaker. Also had a good start to the last day, but we had some equipment issues with ground tackle, so had a few 'M' flags up, but they got around the course boat, which had become the mark and all was OK."

"The competitors are great and we have had a terrific weekend of weather, so it was good viewing. A terrific group of volunteers has worked hard, so all thanks to them for a good result", said Morton.

The Boat and Tuco were leading the charge for those behind our leaders. Forceful and The Greater Fool would earn a mention too, but having heard from Peter McNeill that very morning that they wanted to have another win and do so from go to wo and it was their favoured light winds, you could start to see a plan coming off and ultimately it did. And oh-so-well at that!

In terms of the main battle, Fifteen+ had a 25m lead over Gen XY as they all headed down to the bottom once more. Interestingly, no one tried to go into Green Island and instead chose to be heading East, but the leaders were now well gone. The right or East side was still the only choice for the final work to complete this race. Yandoo XX would get it, but not without having Roulette stay around three boat lengths behind them the whole way. The Boat would take third, but the question was always where is the series leading pair and do they have anyone in between them? The answer was yes, four boats actually, but the telling tale was that Fifteen+ was in eighth place and so had to now count their previous drop of a sixth place with the net effect being a four point buffer to Gen XY, which would probably be more than enough. As we now know. It was.

Al Cowen helms Tuco, with Michael Allen and Brad Warneke as crew. They finished the series in twelfth place. After racing, Cowen commented, "Hard game when there are some serious heads around. We were here to learn and so it was good to see the VIC, NSW and WA crews here to add to our local heroes. We are still looking at everything we do and have some positives to focus on and other items to improve. Getting a sixth was certainly a highlight, but we know we had a nineteenth place too, which we bounced back from."

"It is good to see improvement and we have only been a crew for five weeks, so also learned a lot from a session with Adrian Finglass. So we'll keep working on things and learn all the little tweaks and nuances. It is really terrific to go against this sort of quality and we thrilled to have got in front of Gen XY for the first time. So we have got some boat speed and now we just need to get smarter. Thanks to our sponsor, the race committee and all the volunteers, because without them it would not happen."

Matt Chew helms Gen XY with Brian Donovan, Bill Cuneo and Ash Deeks as crew. Chew said afterwards, "In the first race we had a good go at them (Fifteen+) and were happy with the outcome of them getting another drop race. Happy days and it meant we did not have to worry too much going into that last race."

"The Green Island course has some tidal effects and you do go up on the right side more and then down sucking in close to the island. Adds to the challenge of it all. Fifteen+ have a downhill edge on us and we have four years to get some more boat speed ourselves. Still we are always trying to be first at the top over being first at the bottom."

This slick outfit have recently knocked of the Mid-winters at Mooloolaba and now this, so what is next? "We are off to Adelaide for the Etchells Australian Championship and then NSW States in February, so plenty of Etchells action to come. Personally I am doing the Melges 32 Worlds and then the Rolex Sydney Hobart on Alive, so very exciting times."

"Really well done by the crew, as they've done a terrific job, so too the organisers, volunteers, as well as the other competitors and definitely looking forward to some more. As a demo run for 2018, this was a really good test for all the systems and the course is very difficult. Even after all of this weekend I do not know which way is really favoured. It changed a lot on the different legs. Often it's left for tide, right for wind, which made it interesting and we never had a good first beat for the whole regatta, so that made it a struggle. It would be nice to be able to say we led one from go to wo. Towards the end of the last race we certainly did not want to engage and were happy to concede a point from the buffer - Penalty turns would have really hurt us", said Chew.

At 1240hrs there was still 0.7kn of tide running up North. The course was just the two laps on an axis of 015degrees over a range of 1.1nm. Sequence was commenced at 1245hrs, about an hour before the bottom of the tide. It was a gorgeous setting and a real 10 knots just made it perfect for racing. Tusk was down at the bottom of the pin end trolling for a spot to bang in on and get racing. This had become a regular feature for them. Fifteen+ was also hanging with them and keeping away from Gen XY. An all-clear start commenced with Tusk, The Boat and Roulette getting out of the front row early. Forceful was another to be there or thereabouts. The second row certainly were quick to go over to the right, and no one would not stay too much in the left except for Fifteen+, who was holding sway over Yandoo XX, Tusk, The Boat and Gen XY. The reason could well have been a more consistent and solid breeze. So if it had been right early, it was now left. Ultimately they had to go, but Gen XY held them all there long enough.

Top mark for the first time in this last race was busy with The Greater Fool getting the bragging rights. Tusk was next, Gen XY, Roulette, The Boat and Fifteen+. The Greater Fool gybed early after the mark, but promptly came back, which is probably when Tusk snared the lead. Fifteen+ showed some pace here and clawed back a little. Roulette would have to reposition in amongst them all to allow for clear air to get to their sails. It had started to look a little bit like a soldier's course on the starboard gybe, with Tusk about three lengths in front, but a late gybe to go in was required.

Roulette struggled to get clean air with many a craft swarming around them, but Tusk owned the race. Gen XY and Fifteen were next around. The course was lengthened at this time to account for the extra puff. The Boat and Roulette were also in the top grouping. Once more for the day and to keep it interesting by virtue of change, this work would be about the centre of the right. No matter which side you were on when you got to the top mark it would be many that had overlaid the mark.

Most chose the Green Island side of the course for the last run in this regatta. Just two would have a look at the gybe back in, which occurred at about a third of the way down. By about halfway they had all gybed over with Roulette being the closest to Green Island. These ones had done well, but there were some to come back from East who also had a good look in and would be part of the leading pack. They would all opt for the pin end of the finish line and offered up gybes everywhere to get there, for it was the shortest point. Fifteen+ would nab second, Gen XY third and The Boat, fourth. The Greater Fool would get fifth and then Tuco, but you have to mention Odyssey in seventh for Jill Connell had helmed well all regatta and finish in fifth for the series.

Representing the Royal Perth Yacht Club and finishing in seventh place overall are Brad Sheriden, Gary Smith and Brett Shoebridge from Tusk. Sheriden said of their win today, "Always good to finish off with a win and yes it will inspire us to keep going. Long haul from Perth to get here and I'll catch the red eye back tonight. Etchells always have a high level of competition, so very happy with that last race. Personally I preferred the Green Island course, which seemed to be really good."

Knot Easy is skippered by Jason Hawkins, who has as crew, Brett Forster and Chris Nezmah. Hawkins said of their eighteenth place, "It was our first major regatta and we've had lots of learnings from seeing the hot end of town sail away from us, but we had some plusses in there for ourselves. Two pretty good races in the series for us is terrific, but today in the light was challenging, for sure."

"It is easy for them to get away in those sorts of conditions, so we still have a lot to learn. Brisbane is great place to sail and you cannot get better than this - three superb days, albeit a little light today, so what could be better than that in October. Yes, the Nationals in Adelaide could well be on the programme for us."

Crowd favourites, Alex Gough, Charlie Wyatt, Paul Wyatt and Andrew Gough on Bootross were always looming. Gough said, "Our first regatta - it started well and we had a great time with some fantastic moments. Really happy to have some times when we were right up there. Really positive and keen to keep involved in the class and we have a lot more to give, but definitely had a blast this time."

Now there'll be even more sun, water, fun, excitement and legendary hospitality on offer, anytime you choose to race with the Brisbane Etchells Fleet. See and for all the key information.

Roulette were very impressed with the whole regatta and are leaving the boat behind

 Roulette were very impressed with the whole regatta and are leaving the boat behind
© John Curnow

Tusk under spinnaker in the light conditions

 Tusk under spinnaker in the light conditions
© John Curnow

Marcus Burke and Jeanne-Claude Strong from Yandoo XX, with Peter McNeill obscured

 Marcus Burke and Jeanne-Claude Strong from Yandoo XX, with Peter McNeill obscured
© John Curnow