Local heroes win Etchells Australasians with a day to spare

It’s known as one of the toughest events to win on the east coast of Australia, but that didn’t stop local Mooloolaba team “Our Thing” 1446 from monstering away with the 2019 title, with a whole day to spare.

The fleet were so keen to get racing on Saturday, so much so that in race four, the first on day two of the event, the Race Officer Ross Wilson fired the first general recall of the event, and we saw a restart for the competitors.

On the second attempt, it was all clear on a U Flag start, with a 1.4 nautical mile first leg into 12-15 knots at 180 degrees.

A raining cloud on the top righthand side of the course, over the town of Mooloolaba, saw a small pack, including Peter Conde 870, TODd Anderson 1330 and JC Strong 947 led by regatta leader David Turton 1446 rounding the top mark in front of the 30-boat-fleet, with the breeze at times going to 190 degrees.

David Turton 1446 was never headed and went on to add to his already substantial overall regatta lead. Todd Anderson 1330 held onto second, with Mark Bradford 1021 in third, Peter Merrington 1332 moved through to fourth and second overall, with Peter Conde 870 in fifth, moving up to third overall with the drop coming into play.

Race five got underway after another general recall on a rain affected racetrack. JC Strong 947 had the best start about four boats down from the committee boat.

The left made gains early on the first leg, but it was the right that again paid the dividends at the top of the course. Fumanchu 1444 were the early leaders, followed by Noel Drennan HKG 1428, Turton 1446, Peter McNeill 853 and Dangerzone NZL1396.

The regatta leaders had a tough downwind leg and fell back to seventh as the breeze swung into a left-hand phase. Despite the lefthander, Turton 1446 opted to head out to the right-hand side at the gate, while the first six all headed left. In what was to be a regatta winning move, the “Our Thing” team came out of the right to lead around the final mark of the course and into the finish with an outstanding score of six points (dropping a 3) after five races.

Second across the line was Noel Drennan HKG 1428, followed by Highlander 1440 from WA, JC Strong 1435 and Merrington 1332.

In race six, Turton found himself in the position of potentially taking a coveted Etchells Australasians with a race to spare, just needing to finish with what we thought would be a top ten position to secure the deal.

Off the start line, Graeme Taylor on Magpie 1447 with gold medallist Tom Slingsby were the best off the mark, a great come back following two tough races earlier in the day scoring a 16 and a 21, dropping back from second to fifth overall. Dangerzone NZL1396 also had a good start at the pin end of the line.

The early left paid for Dangerzone NZL1396, and they were the first around the top mark, followed by Magpie 1447, Ben Leigh-Smith 1165, Peter McNeill 853, and Peter Conde 870. For the first time in the regatta, the leaders, Turton 1446 found themselves outside the top ten at the first mark.

On the second work, the left-hand side again paid, and Magpie 1447 was on the right side to take advantage, moving into first place. They controlled the race from that point onwards, taking the bullet to move back into fourth overall. Ben Leigh-Smith 1165 did a great job to hold onto second, with Peter Conde 870 finishing in third, Dangerzone NZL1396 in fourth, and Merrington 1332 in fifth.

All eyes were then on where Turton 1446 would finish, to see if he could not only take the regatta with a race to spare, but also be the first local team to ever win the event in it’s 32-year history.

David Turton, Josh Torpy and Julian Plante clawed their way back to twelfth across the line, which was enough by just one point to take the win, without needing to race the final race. The local heroes had done it!

On the final race day yesterday, with the winning team of Turton, Torpy and Plante still on the shore with no need to sail, it was all up to Merrington 1332, Conde 870 and Greame Taylor on Magpie 1447 to decide the minor placings.

Merrington 1332 nailed the start at the pin end of the line in the second attempt, making it clear that he meant business to secure second place. The breeze was at 190 when it was first set, but had been continually swinging left, with racing eventually getting away on a 1.4 nautical mile beat at 175 degrees.

At the top mark, Merrington 1332 led from Ramaley 1463, who also started close to the pin, and the breeze had swung as far as 165 degrees. David Dunn 1401 was third to round, with Graeme Taylor 1447 in fourth position. Peter Conde 870, who started the day in third position was deep in the pack, so with the current positions, Magpie would finish in third overall.

The team on Top 40 headed by Merrington sailed a near perfect downwind leg to put even more distance on the fleet, and with a change of course to 160, headed back out to the left-hand side for the second work. The breeze got to 15 at times.

The order stayed much the same until the final bottom mark rounding, where Taylor 1447, rounded on starboard, and then tacked to head back out to the right-hand side of the course on port. They managed to pass both Dunn 1401, and Ramaley 1463 to move into second.

Peter Merrington on Top 40 1332 crossed the line to take the final gun of the regatta, and second overall, with Graeme Taylor’s Magpie 1447 not far behind in the end, as they would then wait to see where Conde 870 finished to determine their overall placing.

With some brilliant sailing, Peter Conde 870 managed to get himself back to seventh across the line, which was just enough to secure third overall, leaving Graeme Taylor 1447 in fourth, and Noel Drennan HKG1428 in fifth.

Top five final results

Our Thing    1446      David Turton, Josh Torpy, Julian Plante – 21 points
Top 40                      1332      Peter Merrington, Geoffrey Bonouvrie, Ian McKillop – 23 points
Encore                   870        Peter Conde, Brian Hillier Myle Baron-Hay – 30 points
Magpie                     1447      Graeme Taylor, Matt Chew, Tom Slingsby – 31 points
Les Freaks Sont Chic 1428      Noel Drennan, Lewis Brake, Marco Pocci – 46 points


On being the first local boat in the 32-year history of the event to win, “I’m absolutely thrilled, it’s been a long time coming. With this new boat, and with Josh Torpy and Julian helping us out along the way, on my home waters. I may have had a little advantage sailing for thirty years at this venue but I will take it every day of the week” said Turton after winning with noticeable emotion.

“Pretty proud, pretty proud to be a Mooloolaba sailor. Mooloolaba has produced some incredible sailors; Stacey Jackson, Casey Smith and Sean O’Rourke as a few examples. It’s been a good breeding ground for sailors and I am proud to be amongst them”.

A massive thanks and congratulations to all volunteers at this event, sailing really can’t exist without all of the amazing people that work so hard behind the scenes to make things happen.  

After racing, the sailors gathered at the Mooloolaba Yacht Club at The Wharf, and each heat winner was awarded a $200 Whale Spars voucher, with minor placings being awarded prizes from North Sails Australia and Harken Australia.

Nic Douglass, Adventures of a Sailor Girl is covered the event with live feeds each race including drone footage from H2O Media, so make sure that you tell your friends and family to get onto Facebook and watch this amazing regatta come to life in real time. Channel 7, Channel 9 and WIN are also covered the event with wraps at various stages throughout the event, so be sure to check them out if you are in the local area.

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