Glorious sunshine and a balmy breeze may have beguiled the fleet into a state of letahrgic recreation, which the harrowing combination of a super-tide and the MRX fleet quickly dispelled in a hectic, frantic penultimate flight.
There were bumper cars on the race course and plenty more bar-karate at Swashies afterwards, but the essential lesson learned is that, in a very close fleet, it always pays to avoid trouble.
Fortunes were mixed up and down the leader board on a crowded, tide-slewn course. Echelon (1379) took out race 1, only to see their fortunes turn rapidly south in race 2 with a 9th place. A second place in race 3 proved that the bullet was no fluke, however.
Feng Shui (1348) and Alliance (1295) were also up and down, while Vilda Hilda (906) had the steadiest run of 4, 3 3.
In the end, a bullet and a second were enough for Feng Shui to hold on to first overall from Vilda Hilda and Alliance.
Next week is the final flight before the Christmas break. Please take a look at next year's calendar and note that the Auckland Champs are on Monday 12th February and Tuesday 13th February. The COAST Nationals are on Saturday 3rd March and Sunday 4th March.
Please note also that the World Champs will be held in Brisbane in October next year, with a series of curtain-raisers scheduled from mid-April. At least 3 NZL crews are planning to head to Brisbane and all members are encouraged to consider a campaign.
Results are here (flight) and here (series).
But for a late start to the season, it is likely that Craig Greenwood and the crew of Affinity (1059) would be giving Feng Shui (1348) a run for their money. As it is, Johnny Melville and Bobby's Girl (1058) have run a consistent campaign and lie second, from a surging Vilda Hilda (906) in third.
Lincoln Fraser and Alliance (1295) are hanging on to 4th place, just ahead of Affinity, with 4 flights to go until the Christmas Break.
Results here (flight) and here (series).
National Association Elections
Our incumbent Secretary and Treasurer are stepping down and so nominations are now open for the National Association Committee.
Anatole Masfen, our President, will stand again for that role. Anatole is a strong supporter of the class and the local fleets, a governor of the International Association and continues to campaign successfully at the international level.
If you would like to nominate yourself, or anyone else, please complete this short form before 22 November, 2017.
It is hoped that elections can be held by online ballot as soon as possible, once all nominations have been compiled and confirmed. All nominations require a seconder.
Photo credit: Lissa Reyden, LiveSailDie
Etchells Racing is Back! After a lengthy and profound hibernation, the fleet returned in good numbers for the first flight of the season - managing 3 ridiculously close races before the light gave out.
Feng Shui (1348) - fresh from the San Francisco Worlds - made a clean sweep - although questions were asked as to the Corinthian nature of their crew, which included an obvious ring-in.
Your correspondent welcomed Julio - the new owner of Upfront (814) aboard Tortuga (779). Julio and his all-Spanish crew will hope to join the fray in earnest after Christmas.
It was great to see Bobby's Girl (1058) join in the pre-season action with an encouraging 3rd place overall - and both Affinity (1059) and Split Decisions (914) are expected to return soon.
Results are here
New Zealand Champions - Team Lisa
From left to right, David Chapman, Al Gair, Gair Jnr, Alex Webster (Fleet Captain, presenting), Martin Hill, Leonie Eichhorst
The COAST Etchells National Championships provided challenging, light conditions to a large fleet of 16 boats, including 4 overseas entries.
After a late start on day 1 (waiting for the wind to fill) the leader-board was exceptionally close and it was clear that the local skippers were not going to have it all their way.
Day 2 dawned promisingly, but the promised breeze never really steadied. An eager fleet was champing at the bit and several general recalls and a black flag were required to rein them in before 3 more races.
Martin Hill, ably assisted by local Al Gair, David Chapman and Leonie Eichhorst completed a masterful performance to take the New Zealand Championship, with Lincoln Fraser's Alliance second and Andrew Wills' Cruel Jane third overall.
Many thanks to the RNZYS, led by Meghan Kensington and to sponsors COAST New Zealand, Orakei Marina and Mount Gay Rum
COAST National Championships
Sailwave Scoring Software 2.9.7
A cracking day on the water, once the breeze filled in from the west.
Images courtesy of Lissa Reyden, Live Sail Die
OK admittedly, that image is just click-bait, but there was high drama on the Waimata for flight 6 as a strong, flukey southerly tested the fleet just 10 days out from the COAST Nationals.
Revenge (240) lost her rig just before the start of race 2 and your correspondent anticipates that the fleet will rally around to help her make it to the start line for the COAST Nationals - kudos to Hugh Rebbeck of Echelon (1083), who has already offered to donate his spare rig.
Racing remained close in the fresh breeze and Affinity (1059), whose crew had been shy of the punchy conditions earlier, hardened up and rose to the challenge to take 1st overall from Feng Shui on a countback. A solid 5 and a 2 were good enough for 3rd place for Alliance (950) and 4th for Vilda Hilda on the countback.
COAST NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
With just over a week to go until the COAST Nationals, preparations should be well in hand. Two training days are planned for Thursday and Friday next week. So the schedule of events looks like this:
As team Feng Shui's new boat, Cruel Jane, took to the water for her Auckland debut, not a few members of the fleet may have hoped she would be more asinine than her stable-mate, but she proved to be fleet of foot, taking two bullets and flight from Echelon (1083), whose tenacity at all points of the course helped her to keep Alliance in 3rd place overall.
COAST NEW ZEALAND NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
The COAST Nationals are only a couple of weeks away. Please take a moment or two to study the schedule of events here. There is a slight change to the logistics on Saturday evening after racing: a coach will bring competitors back from Orakei to Swashbucklers, where MOUNT GAY RUM will host a cocktail hour.
Please note also that there will be an opportunity to weigh in on Tuesday 28th March before racing. The scales will be on the dock and it wil be an enormous help if the weigh-in can be completed on that night.
Registrations close on 21st March - please complete the registration form here.
Results are here (flight) and here (series)
For Flight 3 of the Post-Christmas Series, the Auckland fleet welcomed Dave Chapman from Sydney and welcomed back former class champion, Al Gair aboard Unfinished Business (1184). El Chappo will return for the ultimate flight of the season and for the COAST National Champs in April.
The first two races proceeded at a gallop, with Feng Shui (1348) taking race 1 from Affinity (1059) and Echelon (1083) and Auckland Champs Alliance (950) taking race 2 from Feng Shui and Bobby's Girl (1058).
A long interval then followed in which the RC thoroughly tuned their horn section and aired out their flag locker. At one point, your correspondent was launched on a lifted port tack for the first time this season (possibly ever), only to see the fleet turn back under a baffling series of signals.
Feng Shui continued her return to winning form with a bullet in race 3, with Unfinished Business and Bobby's Girl taking 2nd and 3rd.
Entries will open for the COAST Nationals later this week. It looks likely that we will have 15 entries and - if the season so far is any indication - some very close racing.
Results and TRACKING are here (flight) and here (series)
Auckland Champs: Craig Campbell, Lincoln Fraser, Willie Roberts, Jono Francis
Proving that practice makes perfect, Lincoln Fraser returned from a weekend of first-class Etchells racing in Brisbane to reclaim the Auckland Championship aboard Alliance (950) over two nights on the Waitemata.
On day 1, Alliance made a clean sweep with three bullets, with Feng Shui (1348) the bridesmaid on each occasion. Feng Shui may have been holding out for a sixth race after Alliance faltered to a 5th place in race 4, but had to settle for 2nd overall as the fleet took an early bath after 5 races, with all counted.
The fleet welcomed back Johnny Melville aboard Bobby's Girl (1058) who claimed three thirds and a bullet after some sighting-in on race 1. Bobby's Girl was a deserved 3rd overall, with the rest of the fleet some nine points behind the podium places.
Many thanks as always to the team at the RNZYS (including Georgia Witt, Laurie Jurie and Lana Mihelcic) for providing race management and hosting the Etchells fleet for the prize-giving and curry night!
Results and TRACKING here
The first love of every Etchells sailor should be the sea (certain members of your correspondent's crew would do well to note this) and so it was unsurprising to see 10 ardent crews take to water on Valentine's Day in conditions that might have seemed unpromising to the unsmitten.
It was a great pleasure to welcome newcomers, Conrad Robertson and crew aboard a wonderfully-restored Revenge (240) and the overcast afternoon offered a deceptively placid welcome to the debutantes, with barely more than 6 knots of breeze. But soon enough, the fickle southerly punished the unwary (and unaware) with some tricky shifts and holes.
The fleet also played host to Olympic silver-medallist Alexandra Maloney, aboard Magrette (1240) and welcomed Simon Cook to the helm of Feng Shui (1348) in Willzy's absence..
The race committee sent off three long races on the short course and it was a late finish in the diminishing breeze, but having opted to sail on Valentine's Day, one may as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb. In each race, the beat proved a real tester, the offset leg (straight into the flooding tide) stretched the fleet and the downwind legs posed many questions. It was by turns, immensely enjoyable and maddeningly frustrating.
Simon Cook on Feng Shui (1348) posted a convincing 2nd and 1st and, but for an OCS in race 2, might have stolen the flight. But it was Affinity (1059) who ground out the win after a couple of false steps and false starts, from which she recovered well. Echelon took second place - again recovering well from a a disappointing race 1 to take a bullet and 2nd in the races 2 and 3. Alliance (950) placed third, showing real speed and finesse in the last two races.
Next week the Auckland Champs will be held on Monday and Tuesday nights, with a prizegiving at the Squadron on Tuesday, where drinks and nibbles will be ready and waiting for us.
Results and TRACKING here (flight) and here (series)
Alex Webster is Auckland Fleet Captain and runs this website, so blame him.