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Hong Kong's Thornburrow takes out Etchells Queensland title

15 November 2009 Tracey Johnstone

Etchells States 09, Brisbane's Noel Paterson leads Hong Kong's Mark Thornburrow

"Etchells States 09, Brisbane's Noel Paterson leads Hong Kong's Mark Thornburrow"

Photo by:
Peter Duncan,

It took until the final race in the Wharf Tavern Etchells Queensland State Championship for the winner of the 30-year-old coveted title to be finally decided. The leading contenders fought every mile in the remaining race to go one better on each other.

Three teams went into the final racing on equal ten points; Vaughan Prentice, Noel Paterson and Mark Thornburrow. Out of the day came a winning team from Hong Kong; Mark Thornburrow, Greg Farrell, Andy Service and Martin Mok. The team travelled all the way to Mooloolaba to win and that's just what they did. They finished the final race in third place which gave them a final pointscore of 11 points, just two ahead of Paterson and his crew of Sarah Board, James Chilman and Douglas Watson.

"It feels good. We sailed well. Noel Paterson also sailed really well," Thornburrow said. The secret to their success was he felt that he had a good crew, they sailed the course really well and the boat was flyer in the light airs.

"The final race was a match race (with Paterson). It started probably at the two minute gun chasing him around the start. In the first and second beats he was a bit quicker than us." The key to then for the Hong Kong team was to stay on top of Paterson and his Waterloo Bay crew the whole time. Luckily the race came to an end before the breeze built above 15 knots. "We were struggling by then. The first race of day one and day two were perfect for the boat."

In third place overall was the quiet achieving Mark Bradford who pushed out defending champion Prentice with a brilliant last race to deliver his first place of the day. Overall this gave Bradford and his crew Brian Hillier, Andrew Gough and Olympic class coach, Adrian Finglas, 15 points, just one point ahead of Prentice.

Knowing the local conditions was not enough to guarantee good results in the tricky conditions off Mooloolaba in the first day of racing of the championship.

Light winds and brilliant sunshine off Mooloolaba greeted the fleet of 14 boats at the start of the two-day regatta. Crews left the dock with only the essential food and safety gear on board to counter the expected light winds.

The first race started with only one boat over the line; defending State Champion Vaughan Prentice. At the first mark Hong Kong skipper Mark Thornburrow lead the fleet ahead of local skippers David Turton and Trevor Martin. Racing in a building east-north-east breeze of nine knots, the fleet kept a close eye on the large bank of clouds building to the east of the course area. When the gun sounded Thornburrow and his crew of Greg Farrell, Andy Service and Martin Mok finished first with a large margin ahead of local fleet member Turton, and Brisbane's Noel Paterson in third.

The second race saw little change to the breeze. Brisbane's Mark Bradford cruised through to first place. Just behind Bradford was fellow Brisbane fleet member Vaughan Prentice. Continuing on his commanding performance in the light Mooloolaba winds was Thornburrow in third place.

Making up for a poor start to the regatta, Prentice got the gun in the final and third race of the day. Another Brisbane skipper, Noel Paterson was second with Mooloolaba Fleet Captain Trevor Martin in third.

At the end of day one Prentice said before he headed off for a cool beer at the Tavern, "it will be in the roll of the dice who will win at the end of this regatta. I have lost more Etchells regattas than won with the last race.

"It was really good tactical racing; almost a game of snakes and ladders. The States are always really tight racing. I figured at the end of the day the top boats would be tight on total points."

The first race of the day got off on time in six to eight knots in a north-easterly. Unfortunately for 2004 Etchells World Champion, Peter McNeill, an aggressive start strategy saw his Absolute Pearler over the start line at the gun forcing them to tack away from the fleet before having to restart the race. In the light breeze this mistake on the start cost him valuable places. He found himself in eighth place at the gun. Race winner Hong Kong's Mark Thornburrow finished the race cleanly with Brisbane's Noel Paterson two boat lengths behind. Third was local skipper, Trevor Martin with his crew of Josh Torpy and Glenn Thomson. Brisbane's Vaughan Prentice, winner of the State Championship title in 2008, was unable to hold his winning form from yesterday's last race, coming in at fifth place.

Principle Race Officer Debbie Hauchildt quickly moved the 14-boat fleet into a second start utilising the steady breeze to ensure a clean start.

With a building breeze of 12 to 14 knots and no early starters at the gun, Brisbane's Mark Bradford finally found his form again finishing in first place with a comfortable three boat lead. Just behind him however was the battle of the day with Paterson keeping one eye on the course, one eye on Thornburrow and another eye on the breeze. Tack for tack Paterson covered Thornburrow throughout the race before finishing in second place ahead of Thornburrow.

Lining up on the start of the final race, full of nervous tension, Thornburrow and Paterson were on equal 14 points. At the completion of the race they both would be able to drop the worst result of the regatta. For Paterson this would be a fifth. For Thornburrow it would be his sixth in race three. The maths was done and Paterson knew he had to again do one or more places better than Thornburrow to win the regatta.

Prentice could not be forgotten by the leading teams as they worked out their final race strategy. While race day two was not to Prentice's liking, he was no doubt relying on Paterson and Thornburrow to be distracted by their battle, with Prentice possibly being able to slid in under them and take out the final race.

The breeze increased to 15 knots and the sea became more bumpy; both of which would affect the performance of the highly tuned yachts. The trick in this race was quickly adjusting the crew's sailing style to the much heavier breeze. Into the last mark before heading to the finish was a very determined Mark Bradford led Vaughan Prentice. Then it was Paterson, Thornburrow and Mooloolaba's David Turton.

True to the words of Prentice the final race was in the roll of the dice. While Prentice gallantly fought to move up the overall places, Bradford slipped into first place. Then there was the last gasp from Paterson as he unsuccessfully tried to fight off Thornburrow finally finishing the last race behind him in fourth place.

Thornburrow headed back to Hong Kong to continue sailing with the local fleet ahead of the Australian national championship at Lake Macquarie in January. His long term goal ? A podium finish at the 2012 World Championship in Sydney.



Photo by:
Peter Duncan,


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