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Capture the Spirit

11 February 2009 Tracey Johnstone

Capture the Spirit

"Capture the Spirit"

The International Etchells Class has launched an innovative national marketing campaign targeted at increasing the profile and participation levels of the highly successful one-design keel-boat class.

Under the banner of Capture the Spirit, the class will utilise five key messages to reach out to Australia's sailing community informing them of the opportunities and attractions of the Etchells class.

International Etchells Class Association of Australia president Noel Paterson said "we are going out to tell the rest of the Australian yachting public how easy it is to get into a strict one-design, high-profile class like the Etchells. It is a lot easier than a lot of people perceive it to be".

At the start of the 2008/09 summer season the class had 288 registered boats, up by 39 from last year's numbers. "This year is the highest number of active members we have had sailing in the class for 10 years."

But there is still room for more participants said Paterson. "The amount of second-hand and good competitive boats that are for sale means that people can jump into the class and be competitive without having to go out and purchase, say for the average sailor, a top line boat or buy a new boat."

The Etchells class started in 1966 with the launch by American Skip Etchells of his three-man keel boat design. It was not until 1974 that the class was formally recognised by the then International Yacht Racing Union.

In 1973 the Etchells class landed on Australian shores under the guidance of Kevin McCann, Roger Dane, Alex Milledge and Rea Franklin. Since then the class has grown from strength to strength with 16 fleets now active in Australia. Internationally the class is raced in ten other countries.

Each year a national championship is held in a different Australian state. Then during the winter Queensland's Mooloolaba plays host to the Etchells Winter Championship.

Australia regularly welcomes the world to it shores. The first World Championship was held at Pittwater, Sydney, in 1977. Since then there have been another 10 championships held in West Australia, Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. The 2009 world championship is in Melbourne at Royal Brighton Yacht Club from 5 to 14 March. Details of the event can be found on the event website. (

Make the change

The Etchells class provides an excellent opportunity for all levels of sailors to hone their racing skills. "Many of the guys sailing across the Etchells fleets are pretty reasonable sailors, even the guys at the mid-fleet level. The class force-feeds you competitive sailing at a higher rate than a lot of other classes can."

The class attracts sailors from a range of other classes and sailing disciplines. Dinghy sailors wanting to get into a keel-boat class enjoy the move to this highly competitive class. Offshore racers are often seen shrugging off their heavy wet-weather gear and hopping on an Etchells to test their skills in close racing fleets.

For those looking to get into Etchells and aim for chance to race in a world championship, the next Australian worlds will be held at Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron in 2012.

Learn from the fleet, experience the competition

"What I find so attractive about the class is the competitive nature of the class and the fact that the fleets are very, very close. You can always, no matter where you are in any fleet, have a race on your hands. You can be in a 40-boat fleet and be in the last ten boats, and still be knocking it out with those last ten boats," Paterson said.

While the class attracts high-profile sailors from offshore, Olympic, America's Cup competition, the results continue to prove that once these sailors step on board an Etchells they are often found back in the fleet fighting hard for a top finish. In among the greats are an exceptional number of talented sailors with names not readily known outside the class, but all with the ability to knock off the best and sail away with another trophy.

Fast, Affordable, One-design

The Etchells is a sleek, very fast, 30-foot boat. Class rules on the boat set-up, sails, crew weight and crew numbers drive the strict one-design class.

"Cost is also an important attraction. The class is limited to six sails per year. The initial purchase price of the yacht is up to the individual purchaser, but assuming you purchase a second-hand boat at a pretty reasonable price, which they normally are, you can get into the class relatively cheaply. Then it's about maintaining a position in the class by careful maintenance of the sail card. The maximum sails you can buy in one year is six and the most expensive sail you can buy is $2,500. You don't necessarily have to get new sails each year to remain competitive in the class."

Race with your mates, Age no barrier

Since the change to the Etchells class rules in 2003 the fleet members often race with a four person crew instead of the traditional three-person crew. It is a class innovation that has ensured the Etchells are recognising the need to cater for younger, lighter crews and for many more female sailors.

This innovation is also assisting older sailors to join the class as they bring with them their mates from other classes and sailing disciplines to share the Etchells experience with the people who have often been their crew for many years.

Capture the spirit of Etchells, come racing today

Capturing the spirit is about embracing the Etchells class. It is about experiencing close one-design racing among a great group of people. It is also about taking competition to whatever level an Etchells sailor wants to achieve.

Make the change today !


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