16 Etchells and more than 50 sailors took to the Waitemata in proving conditions for the annual Etchells Invitational, before returning to the dock for some post-match analysis and some well-earned beers.
With around 15 knots of breeze against tide, the pre-race warm-up was a little lumpy and the spanners were out on most boats for some last-minute re-tuning, before the slack water smoothed out the race course for race 1.
A general recall allowed the guest-helms to calibrate their approach and all were well clear for the next start. Indeed a significant bow in the middle of the long line allowed Stu Robinson aboard Tortuga (779) to reach over the fleet into pole position, a high risk strategy that ultimately proved too ambitious (Tortuga was OCS).
The fleet split evenly left/right for race 1, but neither corner was obviously advantaged and mark 1 was heavily congested after the work. Heading downhill, the left seemed to see more breeze and Chris Steele aboard Echelon (1083) took the bullet from Charles Maud's Windward (1114) and Feng Shui (1348).
In race 2, Echelon (1083) stuck to her winning formula, but Rohan Cooke aboard Feng Shui (1348) made a better rounding at mark 1 to take and hold the lead from Echelon (1083) and Windward (1114). Murray Gilbert aboard Affinity (1059) recovered from a sub-par race 1 to narrowly avoid the podium and take 4th from an also much-improved Kevin Beaumont on Foundation (1236).
The third and final race played out in similar fashion, with Echelon (1083) and Feng Shui (1348) again heading to the left corner and rounding well ahead of the following fleet to duke it out for first. Following Feng Shui to the boat-end of the line, Echelon may or may not have been pipped at the line (see the tracking here), but it seems unlikely that she was 8th overall (an eclectic mix of sail numbers may have confused the committee). Nonetheless, Chris Steele secured a strong podium finish overall.
Congratulations to all who participated and kept the large fleet incredibly tight (around 60 seconds separated first and last finishers).
Many thanks are owed to Andrew Wills of North Sails for organising the Invitational and bringing out so many talented sailors. Thanks also to the RIB team (who distributed cold drinks to the fleet at sea), to Richard Gladwell from sail-world.com and to the RNZYS race officers.
If you have enjoyed the Invitational and would like to join the fleet, please do not hesitate to contact Alex Webster (email@example.com) or Andrew Wills (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Results and tracking are here
Images by kind permission of Richard Gladwell, Sail-World.com
Alex Webster is Auckland Fleet Captain and runs this website, so blame him.