Some of the big names entered so far include former Worlds winners, Judd Smith (USA), Peter McNeil (AUS), John Savage (AUS) and Andy Beadsworth (GBR), who returns to defend his 2008 crown.
Australian names include winning America’s Cup skipper and Finn Olympic medallist John Bertrand (AUS) who looks likely to be crewed by four-time Olympic star Ben Ainslie (GBR) and Olympian Andrew Palfrey (AUS).
Following selection trials, other Australian entries of note are: Mark Bradford (Qld), brothers Michael and Richard Coxon (NSW), Tom Slingsby (NSW), Rob Brown (NSW), Michael Manford (WA), Skip Lissiman (WA), Noel Drennan (Vic) and Nick Rogers (Tas).
Since returning from the Beijing Olympics, current Laser world champion Tom Slingsby is looking forward to the event. “It’s been around five years since I sailed an Etchells. I did a Nationals and a couple of State’s, but this is a much bigger thing, so I’ve been doing a bit of training.
“I know I’ll learn a bit and I’ll see what tricks some of these top guys have up their sleeves - and use the same tricks on them at a later date,” laughed Slingsby who is yet to declare his crew.
The lone female entry is Mary Hanna, an Olympic Equestrian competitor and coach from Geelong in Victoria. A regular at major events since she took up Etchells sailing earlier this decade, the 52 year-old’s fitness helps her keep pace with the guys.
One of the most competitive classes in the world, only a handful of skippers have won the event twice; Bruce Burton (USA), Stuart Childerley (GBR), John Savage (AUS), Colin Beashel (AUS) and Dennis Conner (USA).
The most prolific though, is David Curtis (USA), who has won a remarkable seven times, with second place finishes a further four times. The American’s winning streak started in 1976 and his last win was in 1992 in this incredibly tough three-person keelboat class that is sailed by most of the biggest names in our sport.
So far, RBYC has received 79 entries in a class where it is a rarity to win a World’s more than once.
Naming rights sponsor, Audi, is keen to see as many big names as possible in Melbourne at the event to raise awareness of the competitive sport of sailing.
Managing Director of Audi Australia, Joerg Hofmann, says that the company welcomes these top-level sailors to a sport where skill and strategy is paramount.
“Sailing is a highly-strategic sport. As well as being fit and talented, the top level sailors need the will to win and a good strategy to out-manoeuvre the competition. It is difficult to repeat these World Championship wins, but top-class sailors have a certain mental edge that helps them to win. It’s about leadership and a clear focus on the right end result.”
“As a luxury carmaker in a growing market like Australia, we understand this need to focus to stay ahead,” Mr Hofmann said.
Audi Australia dominates sponsorship in sailing today and is no stranger to the Etchells Worlds, having sponsored the 2006 event in Perth.
A manufacturer of exquisite cars; sophisticated machines that embody technological perfection, Audi’s success is built on its core values of creativity, commitment and enthusiasm. The company strives to lead the way through constant innovation, setting new standards that define Vorsprung durch Technik.
Jake Gunther, a competitor from Melbourne is also the event Committee Chairperson, while Beijing Olympic race management brothers Kevin and Ross Wilson will fill the Race Officers roles.
Organised by the Melbourne Etchells Fleet in conjunction with the Royal Brighton Yacht Club, nine windward/leeward races are scheduled for the Audi Etchells Worlds, commencing on March 9 and finishing on March 14 when the World Championship Perpetual Trophy will be awarded to the overall winner.
Continuing its involvement with major Etchells regattas, SLAM is the Official Clothing Supplier to the 2009 Audi Etchells Worlds.