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Brisbane: Etchells Fleet grows and grows (again)

8 December 2011 Noel Paterson

Prentice and Rose in pre-start manoeuvres at the 2011 Queensland State Championships

"Prentice and Rose in pre-start manoeuvres at the 2011 Queensland State Championships"

Photo by:
Tracey Johnstone

The Brisbane Etchells Fleet was formed in the mid-seventies and being the new flavour of the month, it grew relatively quickly. By the late eighties and feeding into the Worlds in Brisbane in '93, the Fleet was regularly sailing fifteen or so boats on any given Saturday afternoon. This was the highest numbers the Brisbane Fleet has ever achieved. In those heyday years, the majority of boats on the hardstand went sailing on Saturdays and the Class enjoyed a long period of stability of numbers and enthusiasm.

Subsequent to the '93 Worlds, a number of the Class stalwarts, who had been there from the start, left the class to do other things, as so often happens after a Worlds. Etchells declined in the Brisbane Fleet, to a point where the whole thing almost folded. I almost succumbed to the ebb in the Fleet myself and my boat was also for sale like the others. What a tragedy, twenty plus boats on the hardstand and only getting two or three on the water... Enter David Healey, virgin Etchells owner and fresh from Melbourne, via Inverell. If it were not for Dave, the Etchells Class would have folded in Brisbane. There is no doubt about this.

You could count on one hand, the number of club races Dave has missed since the mid 90's. Thankfully, Dave has morphed into an Etchells tragic. Slowly the Fleet has grown since then, up to a point where five years ago we were getting say four to eight boats on the water regularly, which was not great, but still breathing.

There has been a concerted effort over the past three years or so to push Etchells and the Brisbane Fleet, somewhat proactively and in a very visible way. In the past two years, the Brisbane Fleet has had an influx of seven new owners, only two of whom were existing Etchells sailors, by the way. Five of these have come on board since last Christmas, alone! Also, five of the seven have basically been closet Etchells owners for years and then finally weakened to the delights of Etchells sailing.

My point is that there must be more of these guys out there. The secret is finding the trigger, in order to get them to take the next step. Three of our new owners have literally come out of left field.

Our approach is more of the same. Maintain a visible presence on the water, in print and après sailing. Who knows, we may even surpass our local goal of getting fifteen boats on the water regularly. Seeing as we now have 10 - 12 boats on the water consistently, we are getting close!!!


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