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A take on the World

30 August 2013 Peter McNeill

LtoR: Dan O’Grady, Peter McNeill and David Gleadhill doing the relaxing section of their World’s campaign.

"LtoR: Dan O’Grady, Peter McNeill and David Gleadhill doing the relaxing section of their World’s campaign."

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Our crew for the 2013 Italian Worlds had a very distinct Irish flavour. Our middleman, Dr. David Gleadhill, is originally from Belfast and now lives in Australia. Our bowman, Dan O'Grady, is from Dublin. We had asked Dan to sail with us as part of the deal with buying his boat, IRL 1330.

Dan and I towed our boat to the venue from Ireland, arriving the day before the start of the Italian Nationals. Considering we had never sailed together, we felt we put in a reasonable showing in this regatta, finishing in equal fifth place. This gave us some confidence that we were on the pace heading into the Worlds, which were starting a week later.

Both Dave and Dan had commitments back in Ireland for the week between the Nationals and the Worlds, leaving me with a list of jobs to do on the boat, whilst most of the top crews spent this time out on the course with coaches and training partners. There seemed to be a large amount of teams, especially from the Northern hemisphere, employing professional crews and/or coaches at this particular Etchells World Championship.

The first day of the Worlds would be the next time we were able get back out on the water. The conditions were similar to what we experienced for much of the previous regatta, namely 6-8 knots of breeze under blue skies and loads of sunshine. Very pleasant conditions, although a little tricky. Maybe our lack of practice had something to do with our poor showing, as we carded a 25th and a 16th for the day. Not a good start to our campaign.

In the first race of the second day, a number of boats were disqualified under the black flag, but we managed to nail a great start at the somewhat biased pin end, and were then able to get onto port tack early, with a good lane to head to the favoured right side. We found our rhythm and boat speed to finish happily in fifth place.

Day three saw the most breeze of the regatta, with a glorious 10-14 knots on offer and this produced some great racing. We got good starts in both races of the day. The Race Committee set square lines, so our strategy was to start mid-line, hold our lane and wait for our time to tack onto port, hopefully sooner rather than later, as the right was definitely the place to be.

Our boat speed and height allowed us get to the top mark in good shape and we finished the day with a seventh and a second place, which put us in fifth place overall at this half way point of the regatta.

We stuck to our starting strategy for the rest of the regatta, which worked well most of the time. Good speed and tactics allowed us to dig ourselves out of trouble a couple of times when we did not come off the line so well. Accordingly, we were able to drop our twenty-fifth result from the first race and finish in fifth place overall.

Looking back and analysing what worked well for us at this Worlds, I think these were the key factors:

  1. We had good speed. I know I keep saying this, but if you are going fast, life becomes easier. I have now completed 21 campaigns for the Etchells World Championship and the sails I make now have evolved from over thirty years of sailing in our magnificent Class. I made a couple of little changes to our sails for this regatta, which made a big difference.
  2. We had fun and enjoyed every moment. Our accommodation was great and was also walking distance from the marina, so we were well rested and relaxed. We stuck to a regular routine each day, which started with morning exercises, followed by a healthy breakfast. I find that nutrition and exercise has a big bearing on how the brain functions when you're out on the racecourse.
  3. We kept things simple. I see and hear some crews getting a bit caught up with technical stuff, which can be a real distraction. Half a turn on a Brolga isn't going to make that much difference. Whereas getting good starts and then going the right way certainly is.

The Etchells is a great sailboat and I can't wait for the next regatta. Looking forward to seeing you there.

Peter McNeill,


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