Photos: Damian Devine

Clark tops formidable opposition

Amateur team demolishes the pros at the Zhik Etchells Australian National Championship

Tuesday February 14th 2012, Author: Tracey Johnstone, Location: Australia

The NSW team of David Clark, Andrew Smith and Alan Smith have won the Zhik Etchells Australian National Championship ahead of an enormously talented field of Australian and international competitors.

Clark and his team had only a three point advantage going into the final day of racing today ahead of Etchells World Champion, USA skipper Jud Smith. At the end of today Clark’s team walked away with a nine point lead over what would easily be considered a World Championship quality, 61-yacht fleet.

Going into today Clark knew his team just needed to stay focused on the small picture, finishing in the top couple of boats in each race today. This they did finishing third in race one and second in race two. It helped that the breeze for the best of the day stayed steady, unlike the previous three days when the fleet fought constant breeze shifts on the offshore course.

Etchells World Champion in 2006 and on the Worlds podium six other times, Jud Smith and his gentlemen team of Mark Johnson and Nik Burfoot finished in second. Smith approached the championship with his typical analytical style. Assisted by former Australian national Olympic coach, Mike Fletcher, and with a careful selection of sails and rigs, Smith carved his way through the fleet. “We like the (first) mast, but I’m not sure I picked the right main. Aside from those things that we might change before the Worlds, am I happy with the sail selection for this regatta ? Yes and no. I am glad we did it. I wouldn’t have done it any other way.

“It has been hugely valuable to be out there. It is obviously good competition. Everybody is pretty close. When it comes down to it, it is still a sail boat race and we have to execute the basics like starting consistently, trying to go the right way, managing the fleet. We are improving there, but we have room to improve,” Smith said.

Third place went to the talented young team on Two Speed led by Julian Plante. He chipped away at the leaders achieving a top 10 place in all but one race of the regatta.

Julian’s crew of Nick Garland, Michael Dunstan and Hannah Nattrass haven’t done much sailing together so their’s was a particularly encouraging result.

Special mention has to go to John Bertrand and his Olympian team of David Giles and Tom Slingsby. It was unglamorous start for them with a BFD in race one, then a roller coaster ride from fourth to ninth, down to 15th and 28th on day three, before a superb day today of a second and then a first.

The final day of racing in the Zhik Etchells Nationals started unfavourably with heavy rain, no wind and significant wind shifts. It took over an hour from the planned start time for the race committee to commit to a course of 115 degrees and 1.6 mile leg.

Yesterday’s record of start line recalls and black flags hung ominously over the fleet this morning. Jud Smith said of the start line incidents that he felt the line had been set too short. “We recognise that they are a very high risk start. We try to put ourselves in a position to not fail at the start as opposed to getting a great start. It is about risk management because it is a risk start. You can’t get a perfect start. All you can go for is a low risk start. It’s the length of the line and the people; they are pushing it too hard. They are setting up too early and pushing the line too hard with no place to go,” Smith said.

But It seemed yesterday’s were to remain in the past as the start gun went and Triad (John Bertrand) lead the fleet from the pin end with Racer X (Mark Thornburrow), Roulette (Jud Smith) and Gelert (James Howells). On the middle of the start line sat Fifteen (David Clark) and Magpie (Graeme Taylor). Bertrand had a good start clearing the line. Smith was also across nicely, just above and windward to Bertrand.

Sadly for the PRO, the only boat he had to call back was his son, Peter Merrington, steering Odyssey.

The fleet spread out with Smith, Bertrand and more heading to the left. The wind remained steady. Clark also worked out to the left with good boat speed .

At the top mark first time around it was Bushfire (Jervis Tilly) who led the fleet, about three boats lengths ahead of Bertrand. Then came Clark about one boat length behind Bertrand and one ahead of Smith. Next was Hydrotherapy (Murray Gordon) and Bobby’s Girl (John Melville). The rounding was strangely quiet as the boats were fairly well spaced out and the focus was on a clean race.

The breeze went left to 105° before heading back to 115 at seven to eight knots, as the last of the boats rounded. It was then on between Bertrand and Smith. Bertrand gybed away just before the bottom mark while Smith kept going for another 200 metres before covering Bertrand.

Sailing steadily and unannounced was Tilly crossing in front of Bertrand and around the bottom mark on the left hand side. Next was Bertrand and Clark. Smith went to the right mark looking for a clear area to set himself up for a lane back to the top mark.

The breeze stayed steady at 110° and Tilly increased his lead on Bertrand and Bertrand took distance out of Clark and Smith.

On the run Smith stayed right hunting Clark while Bertrand chased Tilly on the left. But, it was Tilly at the gun for his first win of the regatta.

“We started on the pin end and it was our only good start of the regatta. We forced some guys off which was great.We haven’t sailed for months so it has taken some time to blow the cobwebs out of us and the boat. We even found an ant’s nest under the traveller during the last beat.

“The conditions were tough with the seas lumpy, more than we would have expected with this amount of wind,” Tilly said with broad winner’s smile.

With a time limit for the start of the second race at 1500 hours, the race committee quickly set up the final race of the day and series. The breeze stayed at 115° and the anxious leaders bunched up at the pin end. The result was the first general recall of the day.

The breeze shifted to 110° so the course was re-set and the class flag went up for another start. Smith, Howells, Taylor, Bertrand and Clark were placed near the middle. Just as the start time approached Smith, who looked to be caught behind the start line bunch, found his window and was through. Unfortunately, Smith’s smart start was wasted as the general recall went out again.

With the Black Flag up and the bulk of the fleet hovering between the mid-line boat and the pin end, the race committee got them away to a clean start. Smith found his window again just 20 seconds from the gun, but then had Bad Doll (Tom Braidwood) sit on him for the first few minutes of the leg stopping Smith from tacking away into clean air.

Clark took the committee boat end and quickly tacked away to right. Bertrand followed for a short time before putting in a tack to the left.

The breeze at the top mark held at 110 degrees, six to eight knots. As the fleet favoured the left it was American Jane II (Scott Kaufman) in the lead, followed by Clark then Bertrand, Anamchara (James McHugh) and Smith.

On the run to the bottom mark, first time, the fleet spread out. Smith picked the shift and with good boat speed stole the lead, followed by Bertrand then Kaufman. Howells was back in fourth and Clark in fifth at the mark.

The pressure looked good in the middle of the course for the last work. Bertrand and his team of Tom Slingsby and David Giles, picked the significant shifts and then the lay line, beautifully coming in on port, taking distance out of the fleet. Clark was next around followed by Howells, Gen XY (Chew) and Two Speed (Julian Plante).

On the final run and with everything to gain, Smith was the first to gybe to port while the other top place getters held onto to starboard for a longer distance. Bertrand steamed ahead, Clark right on his stern. Smith pushed hard to catch up, then Chew snuck in under Smith’s guard crossing him on starboard gybe. Howells then picked up the swell driving his boat forward, gybing just before the mark.

Across the line it was Bertrand, then Clark, Howells and Chew.

“There were some major shifts, about 20 degrees, rain affected," said Bertrand. "The small showers were affecting the wind direction. The wind broke up from being steady to 20 degree shifts on the second beat. The first beat there was low shifts to the right and the left. There was lots of action out there.

“We have been working on the communication all week. It’s the first time Tom, David and myself have sailed together as a combination. Clearly today we were very happy with the overall result. We will keep talking on how we can make our communication smoother and hopefully more accurate.”



“Yeeha !” was the cry from the Fifteen team as they crossed the line in the final race. Finally, a first at a National Championship after a concerted, focused and well planned campaign for the amateur team.

“We worked the oscillating breezes and got into phase today. We had boat speed and good starts in both races today,” a delighted Clark said.

The first place result will give Clark’s team a confidence boost as they now go into the final phase of their preparation for the Etchells World Championship to be held off Sydney over 20-25 February.

Top 20 overall final results after seven races and one drop:
1 David Clark/Alan Smith/Andrew Smith, Fifteen, CYCA, AUS, 32 pts
2 Jud Smith/Mark Johnson/Nikolas Burfoot, Roulette, USA, 41 pts
3 Julian Plante/Hannah Nattrass/Michael Dunstan/Nick Garland, Two Speed, RPAYC, AUS, 46 pts
4 John Bertrand/David Giles/Thomas Slingsby, Triad, RBYC, AUS, 59 pts
5 Vince Brun/Harry Smith/Michael Coxon/Paul Westlake, Menace, USA, 60 pts
6 Matthew Chew/Adrian Finglas/Darren Jones/Paul Wyatt, Gen XY, RQYS, AUS, 63 pts
7 Ante Razmilovic/Chris Larson/Stuart Flinn, Swedish Blue, HKG, 69 pts
8 Douglas McGain/Adrian Reed/Gary Adshead, Ciao, CYCA, AUS, 82 pts
9 Mark Thornburrow/Gray Gibson/Martin Mok/Simon Cooke, Racer X, HKG, 86 pts
10 John Savage/Ben Morrison-Jack/Richard Allanson, Southern Light, RBYC, AUS, 86 pts
11 Mark Richards/Gary Smith/Matthew Mitchell, Are We There Yet?, RPAYC, AUS, 86 pts
12 Christopher Hampton/Ian Johnson/Matthew Johns, Tango 1990, RBYC, AUS, 88 pts
13 James Howells/David Bedford/John Fisher, Gelert, GBR, 99 pts
14 Jervis Tilly/James Arnold/Steve Billingham, Bushfire, SIN, 103 pts
15 Cameron Miles/David Sampson/Grant Crowle, The Hole Way, RPAYC, AUS, 111 pts
16 Graeme Taylor/Grant Simmer/Steven Jarvin, Magpie, MYC, AUS, 113 pts
17 James  McHugh/Andy Beadsworth/Pete McCormick, Anamchara, SUI, 113 pts
18 Thomas Braidwood/Ben Lamb/Matthew Rhys-Jones/Ty Marshall, Bad Doll, LMYC, AUS, 115 pts
19 Jake Gunther/Stuart Skeggs/Tony McPhail, The Boat, RBYC, AUS, 117 pts
20 Scott Kaufman/Haylee Outteridge/Joel Skelton/Richard Howard, America Jane 11, USA, 119 pts

 

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