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Adelaide: 2015 Australian Championship

1 March 2015 Andrew Waterman

Triad, winners at the Nationals, Adelaide

"Triad, winners at the Nationals, Adelaide"

Photo by:
Kylie Wilson,

'Thank goodness that's over', I thought to myself. Looking back now, some weeks later, I'd do it all again. The Etchells Australian Championship held at the Squadron between January 10th and 16th was definitely a roller coaster ride for me as the Organising Authority.

My thanks to all the volunteer members of the Squadron who put in an enormous effort over the weekend before and during the five days of racing to make this a great event.

It started back in February 2014, slowly putting together all the necessary pieces of the puzzle that go to make up a major regatta. Along the way there were more than the fair share of disappointments and frustrations: Thankfully, Musto Australia's CEO, David Oliver, generously helped with prizes for competitors and T-shirts for all the volunteers. 2015 was no exception for North Sails, who over the years have been a major contributor to the Etchells Class, giving away a jib to the boat that finishes mid-fleet. Thank you North Sails.

On the Wednesday before the regatta started, Roger Oaten, the Squadron's IT and TopYacht software man, was complaining of stomach pains. Next morning he was in hospital with a severe appendicitis. I was now down on my main man to handle timing at the start and record finishing times. Friday morning I went to see my Race Officer, Stewart Ross, to organise a replacement for Roger and was greeted with the news that Stewart was having stomach pains as well, (must be something in the water). Later that day he spent five hours at Flinders Medical being checked.

By this stage I was beginning to worry about ever getting involved in this adventure. To loosely quote Oscar Wilde, 'to lose one member of the Race Committee is misfortunate but to lose two is carelessness'. So to Plan B. Friday afternoon I went down the coast to Adelaide Sailing Club to enlist the help of their Race Officer, Malcolm Hughes, who was in the middle of the Melges 24 Nationals being held that weekend. He reassured me that he would be available for the first day of racing to help out on the start boat. One less problem! Luckily Saturday morning Stewart was feeling better and everything was back on track.

The weekend saw the 34 competing boats registered, sails checked and crews all weighed. It was shaping up to be a good series, with boats from all mainland states. Competitors included John Bertrand, Matthew Chew, Noel Drennan and Cameron Miles, along with Roger Hickman, winner of the Sydney to Hobart, plus Mark Thornburrow and crew from Hong Kong, here to check out the competition and promote the 2015 World Titles in November at RHKYC.

Monday morning arrived with 1013 knots of wind and heavy monsoonal rain that had slipped down from a tropical low in north west of W.A. We had two races scheduled for the day. After some delay waiting for the wind to settle, the two races were completed, where Peter McNeill took out Race One and Matthew Chew was the winner of Race Two.

We awoke Tuesday with the wind building in the northwest, switching to the southwest by mid-morning and climbing to 30+ knots with a dangerously short and steep three-metre swell in the afternoon. No racing.

Wednesday saw a change of conditions, with some early morning rain, but the wind had eased to 18 knots and we had scheduled one race for the day. We added an extra race to partly catch up for the loss of two races on Tuesday. With Wednesday's racing finishing in bright sunshine and a steady southwesterly breeze, we had a series, filling the minimum requirements of four races. Another load of my mind.

The first race of the day (Race Three) went to a black flag start that caught both Noel Drennan and Ray Smith on the wrong side of the line and they were scored BFD, while first over the finish line for that race was Doug McGain in Ciao. Race Four saw the visitors from Hong Kong, Mark Thornburrow sailing Racer X, finish first by a squeezing four seconds ahead of Cameron Miles. The provisional results to this stage saw John Bertrand sailing Triad on 21 points, just ahead of Matthew Chew in Gen XY on 22 points, and then Cameron Miles in third place with 23 points.

Thursday gave us another perfect day of sailing with winds between 15 to 18 knots, clear blue skies and the temperature in the mid 20's. Race Five was a hard fought affair with Matthew Chew in Gen XY coming out on top of Ray Smith sailing St John's Dance. After Race Five the drop for a boat's poorest result is activated. The second race of the day (Race Six) had a familiar face at the front with Matthew Chew again taking the winners prize by six seconds from Cameron Miles. The results now showed Matthew Chew (16) by a point to Cameron Miles (17) and John Bertrand (20) in third place. The pack was closing in, with the top seven places being separated by just 14 points. Matthew certainly had one hand on the trophy leading into the last day.

Back at the marina, John Bertrand came to see me to say that he and Bill Browne had to be back in Melbourne Saturday morning and wouldn't be able to stay for Friday night's presentation. Psychologically this must say something, if, before the final day's racing you're in third place and don't think you can win?

As they say, 'It's not over 'til the fat lady sings.'

One race was scheduled for Friday, the final day of racing, but we were hoping for two if the weather Gods smiled on us, so that we could get in all eight races of the series. Unfortunately this wasn't to be, and smile they did not. After a frustrating two and a half hours of patchy, variable wind from a multitude of directions, a very patient Race Officer finally got racing underway at 3.30pm with winds slowly getting up to 10 to 12 knots. An hour later the winner, John Bertrand in Triad, came across the finish line a convincing 48 seconds ahead of Noel Drennan sailing Baby Doll and John Warlow nine seconds behind in third place. Cameron Miles filled in fourth place. Matthew Chew had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, having a horror day finishing ninth.

This created a different finishing order with John Bertrand finishing 2, 4, (10), 5, 5, 4, and 1, for a total of 21 points. Cameron Miles finished with 4, (14), 3, 2, 6, 2, and 4, also with a total 21 points. On count back, John was the winner. Matthew Chew finished with 8, 1, 5, 8, 1, and 1, (9) for a total 24 points and to sit in third place overall.

What a climax to a great series that started with more than a few wobbles and ended with first and second places being decided on a count back. Additionally, the first five places were separated by less than 10 points.

After packing up Triad, John came to see me to ask if we could push the presentation to the early part of the evening, so as to allow him to attend and still meet his commitments in Melbourne the next morning. We agreed to the request.

The Presentation Dinner had 156 people of which 106 competitors attended. This was one of the first functions the club has had since a major renovation during the previous winter to the first floor dining room.

Upon receiving third prize, Matthew Chew, in lamenting his poor last day offered the quote of the night, 'It's almost enough to make you give up sailing'.

The regatta was a great success, with many of the crews saying what excellent waters they were to sail in and what a great club with friendly, helpful members we enjoy. Thank you to all.


GenXY in Adelaide, Nationals

"GenXY in Adelaide, Nationals"

Photo by:
Kylie Wilson,


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