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Sydney Worlds proving ground of class growth

22 March 2012 Tracey Johnstone

Hydrotherapy in action at the 2012 Worlds

"Hydrotherapy in action at the 2012 Worlds"

Photo by:
Ingrid Abery

The Etchells World Championship 2012 was a successful event, not only for its fleet size and high quality competition, but also for the number of younger competitors who were present.

It has been the aim of the class for the last five years to actively work towards increasing the number of participating skippers and crews, and to attract a younger generation into both roles.

While the top three World Championship places were filled with Australians and there were 10 nations represented within the 74-boat fleet at the Sydney Worlds, it was the age of the skippers and crews that made for interesting reading.

Following on from last year's World Championship winner, 36-year-old Bill Hardesty, this year's winning skipper, Tom King, is 39 years of age. Three of his team members came from high profile sailing backgrounds, but their campaign was Corinthian.

In second place was Magpie, skippered by 40-year-old Graeme Taylor with crew Steve Jarvin and Grant Simmer. In third and proving performance is not limited by age, Triad's skipper, the 65-year-old John Bertrand, was ably assisted again by his professional and younger team of Tom Slingsby and previous Etchells World Champion, David Giles. Then the next six skippers all sat within the mid-40s to mid-50s age group.

Up in the top 15, overall there were three young skippers who achieved outstanding results. Leading that group was 26-year-old skipper and Etchells newbie, Murray Gordon, who was racing with his young Hydrotherapy team of Billy Sykes, Amy Lee and Tom Burton. They finished in a very creditable 12th place.

This is the first year the team has been racing Etchells. They started racing in June at a local Australian event and worked their way through a State Championship in November finishing in 28th place, then the National Championship were they landed in 23rd spot, before attacking the Worlds.

"We noticed the average age of the top skippers was in the 35 to 45-year-old group and had been competing in the class for a few years, so we felt very privileged to be able to race against the sort of calibre of the sailors who were there. To knock off a couple of races against some of the names, we were both very happy and completely thrilled to get the experience from these guys."

"Some of the competitors handed over their thoughts and information on how they thought the boat should feel and how the rig should be set up. For them to pass over their wisdom and thoughts helped us a lot. We would have been a lot further back otherwise."

"To win the first heat of the Worlds was pretty incredible. I have one guy on board who is from North Sails and he just looked at me and said 'I reckon I can get the boat going quicker'. I said, we have just won a heat of Worlds, I don't think we can go any quicker."

The team came up through the youth program at their local yacht club. The lessons they learnt from that program helped them greatly in preparing for the World Championship. "To us, it was just time on water. We put in as much time on the water as we could. We ticked every box possible before the Worlds and it showed with our results. We did much better than we were hoping for," Gordon said.

Chairman of the International Etchells Class Association, Ian Kingsford Smith, commented on the growth in the number of younger competitors in the class. "I have noticed this growth and have encouraged some of them to take over the administration of the class, because they are going to be the future of the class. A couple have already stepped up, but there needs to be more.

"I think these younger sailors are attracted by the competition and the closeness of the racing. There are some big names there, and they do want to sail against like John Bertrand and Dennis Conner."

"I think the equality in the fleet is incredible. You have only to look at the results and you see that some of the top guys were down the back of the field. Then the next day, they are up the front. It is not as though there is one person who is outstanding and that was proven by the eventual champion, Iron Lotus, not even winning a heat. Everybody had a bad heat."

Full results of the Etchells World Championship


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