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Learn from the fleet: Tom King's new challenge

23 February 2010 Tracey Johnstone

Tom King at the NSW States

"Tom King at the NSW States"

Photo by:
Kylie Wilson,

After reaching the top of the world in sailing with a 470 class gold medal in the Sydney Olympics, Tom King has now turned his talents to mastering another sailing challenge.

Well-versed in the art of one-design sailing at the highest level, King is making the transition into Etchells class racing with the same skill level as he has previously demonstrated, but this time with a relaxed approach. "Coming back now is not about achieving anything great, it's about enjoying sailing, about enjoying racing and doing it with a group of people I enjoy spending time with."

King spent the last four years on board Ivan Wheen's Farr 40, Sputnik, campaigning the boat in a range of Farr 40 events including the 2007 Rolex Farr 40 World Championship in which the team finished fourth. The move to the Etchells class is, King says, about competing in the "best one-design racing in Australia."

Wheen, King and fellow Sydney Olympian David Edwards have purchased the Bashford-built hull 925, now named Iron Lotus, and got out on the water with the Sydney Fleet. Their aim is to compete mainly in championship regattas such as states and nationals with possibly a trip to next year's World Championship in San Diego.

"Right now we are just taking it one step at a time. We have talked about doing a 2010 Worlds or the year after and we would like to do the Worlds in Sydney, but we are all busy working and it is something we are doing for the enjoyment of it not necessarily to go out there and blitz the world."

In their first major Etchells regatta, the Murphy & Nye 2010 Australian Etchells Championship, the Iron Lotus team delivered a strong result finishing seventh overall behind. With only one poor result in the last race of the nine-race series, King and his team delivered consistently good results in the top end of the 58-boat fleet with 9, 12, 17, 12, 8, 11, 3, 3 and then a final 32nd.

Reflecting on this result King says the championship was a very challenging event. "We had some great starts, but we didn't quite have the consistent speed to match it with the leaders. It was a pleasure to watch John, Andrew and Tom sailing so well. Hopefully next time we can push them a little harder."

King admits that even with all his small boat sailing experience there is a lot to learn about Etchells. "They are like most one-design boats. There is lot to learn about the nuances of making them go fast. Our challenge is we are not going to be spending an enormous amount of time on the water, so trying to be competitive and be on the pace all the time without sailing every weekend and spending a lot of time training will be a challenge for us.

"If we can make the boat go quick ... well we have a lot of experience in racing in one design fleets and that tends to come back easily if the boat speed is there."

King and his team are remain enthusiastic about getting back into racing smaller boats. With bigger, competitive fleets in a true one-design class King says "you can't do that anywhere else but the Etchells and that is why we are there having a go at it."

The next event for the Iron Lotus team will be the NSW Etchells Championship on Sydney Harbour, 26 to 28 February.


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