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18-year-old Josh Willis' Etchells Nationals baptism

11 February 2009 Tracey Johnstone

Josh Willis hiking hard aboard Una Mas as they chase Triad in the 2009 national championship

"Josh Willis hiking hard aboard Una Mas as they chase Triad in the 2009 national championship"

Photo by:
Steve Hall

Brisbane youngster Josh Willis, with only four months of Etchells racing under this belt, found himself thrown in at the deep end at the 2009 national championship.

"At the start of the event I felt overwhelmed. There were a fair few boats there. The biggest fleet I have sailed in was 18 boats at our Queensland State championship. Yes, It was pretty overwhelming," Willis said.

Willis was on the bow of the Brisbane Una Mas team led by Mark Dagge on the helm and Matthew Hansen on mainsheet. "About three or four months ago I got in with the Dagges and starting racing with them."

Before hopping on board an Etchells Willis spent 10 years of school sailing racing Sabots, then he moved into team racing on the Pacers before trying his hand at Laser Radials. The move to the Etchells class for this young sailor has been very much to do with his attraction to one-design classes.

"I have always liked one-design boats as it is not about the boats. You don't have to spend heaps of money on the boat just to be a winner. It is one-design and that makes it even racing."

The Una Mas team finished a very credible 19th in the 44-boat fleet. Willis attributes the performance of the Brisbane crew to good crew work and some clever tactical calls from his co-crew members.

"Team work is a pretty big key in sailing Etchells because if you don't work as a team it kind of crumbles."

Surrounded at the nationals by Olympic and world champions Willis was pleased to find that everyone wanted to give his team a hand. "It wasn't hard to approach other Etchells sailors. Everyone seemed pretty happy to speak to us."

He is now looking forward to the world championship and maybe one day moving from the bow back to the helm. But in the meantime, Willis has his work cut out for him at Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron where he is an instructor.

Josh Willis (R) with the Churchie Schools Teams Racing Nationals 2008

"Josh Willis (R) with the Churchie Schools Teams Racing Nationals 2008"


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