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First there was one, then the other (and now for something else again)

29 August 2016 James Mayo

All smiles at presentation for the 2016 Etchells Australian Championship

"All smiles at presentation for the 2016 Etchells Australian Championship"

Photo by:
Kylie Wilson,

The Etchells Class has given me so much. I have also been blessed to spend time with some truly great people and sailors, and this has been totally joyous. So yes, what a journey it has been, so far anyway.

Graciously, there has been some tremendous success in there, as well. On my initial attempt at a World Championship off the North Shore in 1999, with Cameron Miles and Andrew Palfrey, we were blessed to walk away with the title. Subsequently, and I am not entirely sure how, 10 years slipped by.

Much later on, I was presented with the opportunity to sail in the 2014 Victorian State Championships being staged out of Metung. This was not only fortuitous, but also incredibly fun. Hitting the water with Graeme Taylor and Steve Jarvin was incredible and it was also to be the harbinger of yet more good times, even if I did not know it then.

It was the first time I had the pleasure to sail with Mothy and GT on an Etchells together, and I have to say that after having been out of the Class for many years, I was a little nervous as I was certainly out of match practice. These were two world-Class yachtsmen and the best in their field, so I did not want to let them down.

I just decided I know what I am good at, so I said to myself, James just fit in and as you have been out of the Class for a spell, simply get the basics right and the results will come. We had a nice regatta finishing equal first with John Bertrand, but lost on count back. JB is such a tough competitor. We are blessed to have him on the course any day, as he is never far from the money.

We then went onto the mid-winters and another podium finish, which just got me more excited to try and do more. I love sailing with the very best there can be, as it just reminds me how much others know and how much you don’t know. GT and Mothy normally sail with Grant Simmer, with considerable success too, so it was an absolute pleasure and honour to have the opportunity to get back into the Class with these guys.

After this I had the chance to sail with my good mate and friend, Cameron Miles and also Grant Crowle. I had not sailed with Cameron since the Worlds of 1999, but it again brought back very fond memories of such great sailing and we managed a very close second to my old friends, Marcus Burke and Neville Wittey, at Mooloolaba in 2015.

After this I thought, wow the Class is so strong. Still, what a great achievement for all those involved. We sure do need to continue and encourage as many as we can into this Class, as it has truly a lot to offer in so many ways.

I was very keen to do more sailing, so when Ritchie and Cocko asked me to join them for the 2015 Victorian State Titles I jumped at it, as I had always really enjoyed sailing with Michael over the America’s Cup and Sydney to Hobart, many years ago. I had never sailed with Ritchie, but had always heard that he was one the finest Yachtsmen in the world, with a terrific personality on and off the field.

So off we went, and going into last day we led by a couple of points, but again were beaten by JB who had a terrific last day. We finished a respectable third, had a lot of fun together, and this really got my thirst to do more. It also brought out the need to try and get a little fitter, as the old body was certainly not what it used to be.

I was also very keen to do the Australian Championship, as I had not done a Nationals before. I thought that this is a joke and I really need to do this regatta. So when GT and Richie asked me to be a part of the Magpie crew for the 2016 Australian Title at Brighton, I was both delighted and very enthused. Having been away from what I love for so long I did notice that everyone had gotten older. Naturally that included me too and I must say when it was all over it did take me a couple of weeks to feel good again!

We left nothing in the tank at this regatta. As I nearly approach 50, I have only the deepest admiration for those in their 60’s and 70’s who are still out there doing it. Good on you all, I hope I am doing the same one day.

Both Richie and I arrived after a long trans-Pacific flight and then had to face several hours in the steam room to get down to weight. I have to say it’s not how I like to roll, for it’s a total distraction and another thing to worry about, not to mention the fatigue and recovery, but I only have myself to blame for a few too many good times in Aspen.

The picture of me asleep under the pool table was a social media sensation, yet I have to thank Huey for the very variable conditions that provided for lots of time ashore, with which I used every moment for recovery, passing out for two hours after the mid-week weigh in. If we did have to race straight after the weigh in I do feel I would have definitely not been my best.

It’s such a wonderful Class we are so fortunate to be amongst so many great sailors. There are always plenty of laughs, both on and off the course, and I have to say when I looked around at the Top 10 in this regatta it let you know you were alive again and to win you were going to have to not make many mistakes.

We did get better as the days went on. We respected each other’s decisions and when we needed to discuss things a little more deeply we genuinely got it right. It was a very quiet boat except for the phone calls back to Mothy in Aspen giving him our regular updates, as we know he never misses much, both on and off the water. He’s a true legend of the sport and good guy.

We finished on 20 points, 10 clear of JB and dropping a 10th. So as we said at the beginning of the week, we need keepers in all races, and that’s exactly what we did winning the last race in true style. Having spent some very memorable years with Doggy he often said just focus on your job at hand and give it your best, and if we all do that then the outcome should look after itself. This is exactly what happened.

All three of us claimed our Maiden Australian Championship on that day. Funnily enough, it was once again, also my first attempt. There could be no better feeling than doing so with two bloody nice guys and good friends, which goes some way to explaining the smiles. Thanks lads!

We could not go to the NSW State Championships, but were on the start line for the Victorian states in March. Congratulations to John Bertrand, Billy Browne and Jake Newman on Triad for their win. We hope that sets them up for Cowes and another title for JB.

We were second and smiled, because they were simply better than us - sharper and with greater downhill performance. I spoke with JB afterwards, because I noticed he was sliding off the breeze and weaving through the traffic with plenty of speed and leaving many in his wake.

He said it came from his days in the Finn, where he was with the main and tiller on the leeward side. We have some practice to do in that area, for there are big gains to be made if you are able to turn it on as he did.

Moving on, we will focus forward, for it all begins from here. Apart from the three of us there are Steve Jarvin and Grant Simmer to factor in, so we’ll need to see what fits everyone’s calendar. We’re absolutely excited to see where it goes to, with Brisbane 2018 shining brightly on the calendar.

Please avail yourself of the videos from the nationals, which show how great the Class really is. Got to or see to get yourself started.

James Mayo

Downhill performance  James calls breeze, Richie on the chute and GT with the tiller

"Downhill performance James calls breeze, Richie on the chute and GT with the tiller"

Photo by:
Kylie Wilson,


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