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Bill Steele - Steely determination to see the class grow

19 March 2009 Tracey Johnstone

International Chairman and Worlds competitor, Bill Steele, racing hard his Dragon Lady

"International Chairman and Worlds competitor, Bill Steele, racing hard his Dragon Lady"

Photo by:
Andrea Francolini,

West Australian Etchells sailor, Bill Steele, is the new Chairman of the International Etchells Class Association.

After spending over 29 years in the class and still actively racing at World Championship level, 69-year-old Steele is well qualified to take the class forward during his two-year term.

Steele has identified three key areas of focus for the class Governors going forward. "I want to see the class grow. There are opportunities for the class to attract people who say they want to keep sailing, but not on a big expensive program.

"We want to maintain the integrity of the one-design concept making sure people don't push the envelope a little too much. We are strict on that as it is the main raison d'etre of the class, its one design-ness and that is what attracts people to it. The only difference should be the course you choose and how you set the sails, and that is true test of a sailor.

"We would also like to encourage more younger people into the class," Steele said.

Back out on the water is where Steele would prefer to be sailing in "a class of class sailing. It is the class of one-design sailing. The boats are sleek, beautiful, modern and competitive."

Steele started his Etchells sailing career in Hong Kong after spending time in the Dutchman representing Hong Kong in the 1972 Olympic Games and racing many offshore events including Kenwood, Admiral's and Southern Cross Cups.

In 1980 a group of friends started the Hong Kong Fleet. "We bought six second-hand boats up from Royal Prince Alfred (Sydney) and that started the fleet in Hong Kong." Now he reports the fleet has 20 odd boats out each week.

Steele enjoyed his time competing in blue water events around the world, but he still came back to his Etchells competing in 18 Etchells World Championships. "I love them. As a retired Airline Pilot I could not afford the cost of running a Farr 40 campaign.

"Sailing an Etchells, you are sailing against the best sailors in the world. The class attracts the best sailors in the world."

Even as one of the oldest skippers in the Audi Etchells World Championship 2009 fleet he does not see an end to his Etchells racing career. "I get a new one every 12 years and call it Dragon Lady because I was born in the year of the Dragon. I have had five Etchells over the years.

"I will probably get another one when I am 72 in 2012 for the Sydney Etchells World Championship."


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