Final race abandoned
|Ross Wilson, the Principal Race Officer of the 2009 Audi Etchells World Championship hosted by Royal Brighton Yacht Club in Victoria, was forced to abandon Race 6, the last of the nine race series on Port Phillip today when thunderstorms and unstable conditions pervaded the course, meaning the overall placings from yesterday’s overall scores stand.
The Championship was won yesterday, by Queensland’s Jason Muir and crew members, as their score could not be beaten. Second and third places have gone to two local Melbourne entries; Damien King/Simon Cunnington/James Ware/Andrew Butler who finished just two points ahead of John Bertrand/Ben Ainslie/Andrew Palfrey.
It was a fairly relieved Simon Cunnington that came off the water this afternoon. “We’re not that sorry the last race was abandoned. Thinking about having to go head to head with Ben Ainslie was a bit daunting,” he said laughing.
Cunnington, who co-owns his boat ‘Barry’ with skipper King, said the crew were rapt with their second place. “Realistically, to finish anywhere in the top 10 would have made us happy. We haven’t done much racing – we didn’t do the Nationals or the States. As I said before, we had Adrian Finglas (Olympic coach) coaching us and that made all the difference.
The Sandringham sailor named tactician Andy Butler as a major factor to their second place: “He was great at picking the pressure up the first beat and from there you are well on your way.”
Cunnington said the crew used ‘Predict Wind’, a fairly new product being used by America’s Cup crews as their weather model.
On the competition coming into the Championship: “John Bertrand’s crew were obviously favoured and we always thought Jason (Muir) would be strong. They were the smartest sailors out there and I reckon we’re 18 months or so behind them in terms of Etchells sailing.
“It was a pretty humbling experience to beat John Bertrand’s crew – we all (on Barry) feel that way. Everyone who finished in the top eight are amazing sailors; Chris Busch, Jud Smith – so to finish second is special.
Busch and Smith finished fourth and fifth overall. And how did they settle on ‘Barry’ for the name of the boat: “It was the worst nautical name we could think of!” Obviously John Bertrand was disappointed the final race had to be abandoned, but as he said: “that’s yacht racing.”
Bertrand described their worst day of the series, yesterday, in which they scored 12th and 32nd placings in Races 7 and 8 respectively: “It was very different in terms of unstable winds. Local knowledge became irrelevant. If you weren’t on the right side of the shift, you were gone - the shifts were long. We got good starts and went left, but the breeze freshened from the right and we were stuck in the boondocks. Once you get buried, that’s it, and with one drop, there’s no way back."
Ben Ainslie added: “The changes in wind happened at different times of the day. It has been extraordinary conditions over the last week, but I’ve enjoyed having the opportunity to sail an Etchells and sailing with John and Dog.”
Bertrand had high praise for his crew: “Ben and Andrew - sailing with these guys - they were a joy to be involved with. It was a fabulous experience to be plugged into the latest Olympic thinking and technology - there was so much knowledge on our boat.
“These guys are so on top of everything, so the boat was remarkably quiet, we didn’t need to talk much. Ben ran the tactics, while Dog (Palfrey) ran the mechanics. They have such a great sense of awareness around them. My job was to concentrate on steering the boat, and I was able to do that.
“The three of us were like well-oiled machinery, which is a very rare thing. I have only felt this once before, and that was with the Australia II team - that’s the last time it’s happened until now. Some people never know the pleasure - it’s a rare and real privilege."
Ainslie, who now heads off to contest the Congressional Cup and rejoin his Team Origin America’s Cup crew, said of the Audi Etchells Worlds: “It’s been fantastic racing, especially with 85 boats on the start line.”
Competitors could not say enough about the organisers, Jake Gunther (who also sailed the event and finished 27th) event-coordinator, Amanda Coates (who worked long hard hours and kept the smile on her face the entire time) and the on-water race management team, headed by Ross Wilson.
Coates had this to say: “I think it’s gone remarkably well. Everyone feels the racing has been good – I’ve had no negative comments at all, so that’s really pleasing. We are very lucky to have the Wilsons (brothers Ross and Kevin) and their team; Bill Bell and Paul and Danielle Pascoe. They are all locals and just get on with their jobs and the Etchells guys are a great bunch, it’s been a great event.”
The 2009 Audi Etchells World Championship was organised by the Melbourne Etchells Fleet in conjunction with the Royal Brighton Yacht Club.