Etchells youth trials
22 of the countries top young sailors were in Cowes over the weekend for the RYA Etchells Youth trials to select a team to race a fully funded Etchells in the 2012 Solent season, leading up to the British National Championships in September.
Thanks to the very generous support of class stalwart Ted Fort the fleet has been able to make GBR1175 available for a youth team as part of building up towards the 2016 Etchells Worlds which will be held in Weymouth. The Etchells is one of the toughest classes to win in and represents the pinnacle of one-design keelboat racing outside of the Olympics.
Six teams were on the start line for a quick boat review and on the water practise before three very informal races were held while the sailors, almost all of whom were getting their first experience of keel boat racing, got to grips with these big powerful boats. Laurence Mead and David Bedford videoed proceedings from RIBS and provided on the water assistance and with a constant stream of questions being fired their way it was clear that the sailors were going to get a handle on which bits of strong to pull when pretty quickly!
On Sunday the Cowes Corinthian Yacht Club team led by Andrew Millband laid on five short course races (which were cut to three races as the cold NE wind built past 20 knots) and there were race wins for Christian Birrell/Sam Breary/Matthew Rainback/Nia Jones in GBR1175, Ed Gibbons/David Conlan/Joe Adams/Emma Derby in GBR1036 and Romain Szyjan/James O Mahony/Toby Mumford in GBR992. The latter took their gun about eight inches from the second place team. Close racing was a feature of the day and all the competitors commented on this aspect of Etchells sailing on coming ashore. That, and about how wet the boats were for the bow person! There were four girls sailing and of these Amy Prime was doing that very job, sailing with William Harris/Piers Strong/George Downer.
Also in the hunt were Bleddyn Mon/Dyfrig Mon/Julie Webster/Peter Austin who won plenty of starts but whose day was slightly spoiled by the fact that the jib halyard on GBR1339 broke five seconds after the start of race 1, so they sailed the whole day without a spinnaker and match racing expert Mark Lees, sailing with Leo Scofield and Ian Law who showed lots of boat to boat awareness and course positioning skill, no doubt a function of his match racing expertise.
The weekend was a great success with 470 Olympic Squad member Christian Birrell saying: "For me I think the Etchells has the potential to suit me perfectly. Just coming off the back of a full-time 2-year 470 Olympic campaign I have been struggling to find any racing that really appeals to me. The Etchells however has the potential to offer some really high quality international racing over the next few years".
Ted Fort confirmed his support of the youth program by saying: "I am delighted with the success of the RYA Etchells youth programme and for the promise it shows in the future of the fleet, especially with the World Championships scheduled for 2016 in Weymouth. "
Belddyn Mon and his team have been invited back to sail the next Etchells Spring Cup weekend (21-22 April) and a final decision about who will get the youth slot for 2012 will be announced soon.