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Trading places to experience an excellent training platform

19 March 2009 Tracey Johnstone

Chris Dare, owner of the 50-foot Flirt, in his first Etchells World Championship

"Chris Dare, owner of the 50-foot Flirt, in his first Etchells World Championship"

Photo by:
Tracey Johnstone

Big boat owner Chris Dare has over a period of a few months become an avid supporter of the Etchells class and its value to his Flirt crew.

Melbourne-based Dare owns and actively campaigns his Corby 49-foot Flirt in IRC regattas and blue water events on the Australian east coast. He has been on the big boat circuit for almost ten years.

Eighteen months ago 37-year-old Dare was "conned" by Yachting Australia President and previous Etchells World Champion, Andrew Plympton, to join the Melbourne Etchells fleet. Plympton then took Dare under his wing bringing him up to speed.

Dare's interest in the Etchells class is fairly simple. "They are all the same. When you are racing IRC boats they are all different and you sail to a rating system. In the Etchells, where you finish across the line is where you finish. I think it is very good for your race planning, race management, sail trim, all the things you want to run well on a big boat."

In March Dare traded places with his Flirt tactician, Roger Hickman, taking on a crewing role for the Audi Etchells World Championship. "This event I am doing tactics and the main. Having said that, I think it has been good for me to get back to crewing instead of steering. You really get a better appreciation of what the crew go through when you make mistakes."

He enjoyed the World Championship admitting he learnt a lot along the way which he will take back to his IRC racing. "It was great racing. You had to be good to be here. There are no dummies out there. With 85 boats starting I think everyone respected each other on the start line. It was a little bit different from running a 50-foot boat."

Over the 18 months Dare has been in the Etchells class he has soaked up every bit of knowledge of the class and tried to apply that knowledge to his big boat campaign. During the winter months leading up to the World Championship Plympton and Dare raced with alternate Flirt trimmers."It is really good for them. They appreciate the time on the smaller boat where the little things matter. They get a better understanding of what we are harping on about on the big boat. It is an excellent training platform," Dare said.

Now that the World Championship is over Dare has no intention of ceasing his Etchells program. In fact, he plans to continue using it as part of his on-going Flirt crew development program. During the forthcoming Melbourne winter he will rotate his crew through the program to give them some appreciation of finer details of sailing.

"I want them to experience how important their trimming is, for example, upwind on the mainsail, just in and out a couple of millimetres makes a huge difference to the helm, where on a big boat I think all that gets lost. Bringing some of those guys onto the smaller boat helps them to understand how important it is. And, the racing is great. The boats are all the same; no excuses. You can't say the other boat is going quicker because they are a bigger boat or they are a better boat. They are all exactly the same - it is just how you set them up and how you sail them."

The training program will also incorporate time on the water practicing start line skills and race management.

"From the total race management and honesty system I always call it, these boats keep you very, very honest. In relation to sailing a grand-prix IRC boat, it is fantastic learning."


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