Andrew “WIllzy” Wills has won the Auckland Etchells Championships in a desperately close field stacked with Olympic sailors, world champions and overseas talent.
Held over 2 evenings in near perfect summer conditions, the Etchells Auckland Championships is arguably New Zealand’s most competitive keelboat fleet, with a strict one-design rule ensuring that performance on the night wins out.
Wills and his team of Simon Cooke, Anna Merchant and Australian Etchells expert David “Chapo” Chapman sailing Cruel Jane dominated the regatta on the scoreboard, leading from start to finish, but faced close competition on the race course.
“We thoroughly enjoyed the regatta. The racing was tight and we were often having very close finishes. The fleet's sportsmanship and camaraderie is second to none, with boats voluntarily exonerating themselves where necessary. This is the most competitive and affordable one design sailing in the World. We are looking forward to the remainder of the season” Wills commented after racing.
Andrew Wills, David Chapman, Simon Cooke and Anna Merchant
Brian Trubridge and his RNZYS race committee team certainly made the most of the stable 10 – 15 south-westerly breezes with the Auckland Etchells fleet completing a full complement of six races across two nights set on great windward leeward courses.
As is typical with Etchells racing, it was, at times, mere inches that determined race positions and while Wills’ Cruel Jane team displayed was a model of consistency at the finish line, they had to work hard for their success, drawing on their team’s considerable depth of experience to move through the fleet.
Laurie Jury, Tim Snedden and Taylor Balogh sailing Windward narrowly held second place overnight after the first days racing, but Lincoln Fraser, Courtney Reynolds-Smith, Geoff Woolley and Jono Francis on Alliance kept the pressure on during the second day's racing. These two teams were engaged with Wills and the fleet but were also keeping a close eye on each other, finishing race 5 separated by mere millimeters in a typical Etchells photo-finish after a seesaw battle throughout.
It wasn’t until the last race (race 6) that Fraser’s Alliance managed to break away, scoring a second place while Windward were caught on a tight port approach to the top mark lay line on the second beat, leaving them scoring their drop result.
Alliance claimed second with Windward third overall.
A highly experienced and successful keelboat helm, Laurie Jury was complementary:
“The regatta was great racing in a tight competitive flee. We are really looking forward to the national champs in a few weeks”. Jury was greatly appreciative of Windward’s owner, Charlies Maud, for his support.
Race 6 also proved a separator between Hugh Rebbeck and his Olympian-boosted team of Paul Snow-Hansen, Dan Willcox and Alistair Gillford sailing Echelon. The rock-star crew raised their game after a consistent, but tough first day sailing three-up to narrowly overtake Conrad Robertson and his team of Keith Trask, Mark Milburn (Tuesday) and Bob Fassio (Monday) on Revenge to claim fourth overall with Revenge in fifth. Despite being pipped at the post, fifth is a fantastic result for Revenge, which is the oldest Etchells in the fleet, yet still highly competitive.
Only one point behind Revenge was the RNZYS team with fleet debutantes Sam Barnett, Zak Merton and Brad McLaughlin - all members of RNZYS performance programme. Barnett and his team showed their potential with a third place in the final race and claimed sixth overall.
Another youth team on debut was Benjamin Fraser’s RAYC team of Cameron Todd and Danny Su with support from Georgi Yankov. Fraser and his school-aged team sailed well above their pre-regatta expectation to finish in eight place.
Full results here
The COAST Etchells National Championships will be held on 2/3 March and the fleet will be further bolstered by experienced local Etchells sailors Craig Greenwood and Jeremy Scantlebury who will be launching a newly imported boat at the regatta and the return of long time Etchells campaigner, Alistair Gair, who has previously achieved a second place at the Etchells World Championship.
The Auckland Etchells fleet sails regularly on Tuesday evenings with starts from 6:00pm out of their Westhaven Z Pier base. The fleet has its boats launched and retrieved to facilitate an efficient and low-fuss racing experience that continues to attract strict one-design racing enthusiasts.
Further details here
Alex Webster is Auckland Fleet Captain and runs this website, so blame him.