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Chartering - to do or not to do

17 June 2009 Tracey Johnstone

Key Largo team at the Audi Worlds, Gordon Hinds, Stephen Ingate and David Buckland

"Key Largo team at the Audi Worlds, Gordon Hinds, Stephen Ingate and David Buckland"

Photo by:
Deborah Lloyd Photography

The choice to compete in an inter-state or overseas Etchells event can be difficult if you don't want to or cannot afford the cost of transporting your boat to the event. There are options however as we discovered when talking to Stephen Ingate of the Sydney Fleet and Brad Sheridan from the Swan River Fleet about their recent chartering experiences.

Ingate has been racing in the Etchells class for the last five years and has already clocked up five World Championship appearances. Each of the events he has chartered or had a loaner boat.

Sheridan, from the Ullman Sails in Perth, is now up to fourth inter-state charter experience after having joined the Etchells class in 2003.

Ed - How did you put your charter together ?

SI - We have done the loaner boat program with other Worlds because under the International Etchells Association Class, the rule requires the host fleet boats that don't qualify to make them themselves available for international competitors with the view to encouraging participation. I think this is an excellent rule and we used loaner boats overseas in Chicago last year and Cowes the year before. The Perth and Mooloolaba worlds the organising committee extended that rule voluntarily to the inter-state competitors as well to encourage competitors from NSW and Victoria to compete. In Melbourne we organised an outside charter with the Brighton boat Frequent Flyer with the assistance of the race committee.

BS - I have chartered for a Nationals in Sydney, the Worlds in Mooloolaba, plus one other, then the winters in Mooloolaba. Once I saw the Notice of Race for Mooloolaba I contacted Trevor Martin (Fleet Captain) to secure an available boat.

Ed - Is there a choice of boats when chartering ?

SI - No. For the Worlds, under the class rules, it is done by a draw.

BS - I took the boat that was available and recommended by Trevor. He said it was a good boat. You just have to grab one when they come up.

Ed - What is the upside of chartering ?

SI - The upsides are costs and inconvenience. The whole of theory of the class is that boats are all the same. Obviously there are slight differences, but in general terms the boats are the same. So we think the loaner/charter boat program has worked very well for us. We are a Corinthian effort so money and convenience are a bit of an issue for us. We have been very, very happy with it.

BS - Definitely costs, especially from Perth.

Ed - What did you have to do to get the boat prepared ?

SI - We are gradually assembling a virtual boat. Obviously we have to sail with our own sails which we now have quite a nice wardrobe. We had a tiller we bought down which is a new form of tiller which is very satisfactory. It is really about tuning the boat and the rig which does vary with sail choice and from boat to boat. You don't have as a good handle as to how you set your boat up by having a loaner boat, but the advantages clearly outweigh the disadvantages for us.

BS - The biggest thing we find is when people agree to a charter they the boat is okay and in good nick. But, when you get there you have got to do a fair bit of work to the boat in going through the whole and checking things over especially if it is going to be a windy regatta. The biggest problem I find is the actual pumps as often they don't get serviced. The first thing you have to do when you get to the regatta site is to make sure they work. Normally we spend half a day doing this.

We try to spend a day on the charter boat prior to the regatta just going over things. Also, we normally bring our own spinnaker, main and jib sheets. We take the sheets that are on the boat off, put ours on and then replace them after we have finished racing.

Ed - How much time would you allocate to setting up the boat prior to the first race ?

SI - The better prepared boats have got better results. Simple as that. If we could have come down the weekend before the start of the regatta we would have been in better shape. This has been (the Melbourne Worlds) atypical conditions for this area so it has been a lot lighter than has been expected. We probably would have spent a bit more time tuning the boat.

BS - I would say at least a day so we can check all the race measurements and the forestay fittings which often are the original fitting. We have had the past where the forestay has let go. We have had to take off the forestay and then the turn-buckle inside, get a new strop made up and then get it back in for the next race. It is just little things like that which you need to keep an eye on.

Ed - How many days did you spend on tuning ?

SI - One ! Would have preferred more days. A weekend regatta prior would have been just good for everyone to settle down and get a bit of a feel. But, the weekend prior the wind was really strong so it would not have helped very much with the light air settings that we have been challenged with here. We had a couple of days here where we were lacking in speed and I think that was a set-up issue with the rig.

BS - We try to get down to the boat early, go through the whole boat and then get out on the water for at least over an hour just to familiarise ourselves with where the fittings are on the boat.

Ed - Packing your bags to travel to an Etchells event to sail on a loaner boat, what are the must-have items in your bag ?

SI - You need access to tools to change things if you need it, so at least your basic tools including a saw. These boats are very sensitive to how they are tuned, like racing cars. You need time working on your set-up. Also a marker pen so you can mark halyards and your can write down the course and a tube of glue.

BS - From Perth we have to get our sails to the event. I recommend shopping around for quotes as freight prices can vary greatly. So, we send our sails on two weeks prior and then I carry the spinnakers in my luggage. Our sheets, a little maintenance kit; we basically have a dedicated bag that we have and that is full of all sailing gear. We try to keep our tools to a minimum because of the excess baggage cost when flying, but we do take a good Leatherman and a couple of spanners and some screwdrivers.

Ed - Your advice to those sailors who want to compete in an Etchells but don't want to or cannot afford to transport their boat to the event ?

SI - The loaner boat program opens the door, particularly for younger people to participate. I think if we had better available loaner boat programs in Australia that would help as well. Doing a Worlds you can learn so much from the people around you, looking at their boats and how they sail them. The learning curve is exponential to doing your harbour racing or your bay racing with your fleets. The opportunity to compete at a Worlds should be taken if possible.

BS - I would say if you know someone in the host Fleet that is quite knowledgeable on wherever the regatta is, is to contact them early and secure a boat. It would be nice to have the same boat every year. Just get in early, try to and get some photos of the boat so you know what you are actually getting and then you can make arrangements from there on what you need to take and what you will need to replace when you get there.


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