Yachting Australia Corporate Partner
How it Began - ‘Skip Etchells’
When E.W. ‘Skip’ Etchells sharpened the point of his drafting pencil to draw the lines for a three person keel boat 38 years ago he was recognised as just another ‘hobby’ yacht designer.
Initially his ambition at the time was to design a strict ‘clone class’ sloop to compete in international selection trials to replace the Dragon after the Queensland crew of John Cuneo, John Shaw and Tom Anderson won the 1972 Olympic Gold Medal in the Dragon class at Munich.
‘Skip Etchells’ personally understood the true meaning of sailing at the highest level including winning an American Olympic Star class championship among many of his outstanding achievements.
However he had a personal burning desire to create a yacht that would be the ultimate in testing the best sailors technique and tactical sailing skills.
His project progressively took shape during a cold Connecticut winter in an Old Greenwich loft near Long Island Sound.
As expected the design registered as E 22 proved to be a star performer winning 18 from 23 races in the IYRU Olympic class trials only to be overlooked for the soundly beaten Soling which was accepted because of a stronger fleet base in Europe.
A despondent ‘Skip’ Etchells returned to racing on Long Island Sound reluctantly prepared to accept that the drawings of the Etchells 22 would just gather dust in his personal archives.
Fortunately a group of Connecticut sailing friends who held tremendous faith in the skills of the popular skipper, designer and boat builder believed the highly successful prototype Etchells 22 should have the chance to be developed into an International class.
That decision made purely on faith has produced unparalleled acceptance throughout the World with the sloop being the preferred choice for class racing by all of the master tacticians including winning Americas Cup skippers Dennis Conner, John Bertrand and Russell Coutts.
Etchells fleet racing has continued to grow dramatically with the International body twice rejecting invitations for the class to be selected for the Olympic competition.
This weekend will be the start of the tactical showdown to decide the 2004 World champion when the first of three pre world title warm up regattas is contested off Mooloolaba Beach.
There are no pre-regatta favourites in this strict art form of one design class racing where every crew has an equal chance off the starting line.
However the race winning prospects do change dramatically when the human element factors in selecting the smarter tactical options start to fall apart under the unrelenting pressure as the fleet leaders race just seconds apart.
Even the respected champions like Dennis Conner and John Bertrand have experienced the penalties for making minor mistakes to finish ‘back in the pack’.
This standard of racing will again present a supreme battle of tactics and combined crew skills in another very exciting series of nip-n-tuck type fleet racing to decide the 2004 World champion.
Who this will be can only be answered when the final heat of the World championship is decided on Sunday August 8.