Big fleet for 13th Etchells Winter Nationals in Mooloolaba
by Rob Kothe
On Friday morning at 11am a top class fleet of 55 Etchells One Design boats will start three days of intense racing in a six race series for the 13th annual Musto Winter National Championship, to be sailed just off the mouth of the Mooloolah River near Point Cartwright.
Amongst the sailors on the start line will be the 2004 World Champion skipper Peter McNeil and crew Greg Torphy, 2009 World Champion crew Bucky Smith and Matthew Chew as well as a host of other World and National champions, Olympians, America's Cup and Volvo Round the World sailors.
Amongst the favourites will be last year's Mooloolaba series winner Graeme Taylor (GT) from Melbourne. Among the many other skippers vying for a podium finish will be Victorian Damien King, who finished second in the hard fought 2009 Etchells World Championships on Port Phillip in Melbourne, Julian Plante, Mark Bulka, David Clark, Mark Johnston, Vaughan Prentice, Peter Hollis, Mark Bradford and international sailors Alastair Gair (NZL) and Mark Thornborrow (HKG).
Trevor Martin, the local Etchells fleet captain, says the Musto Mooloolaba Winter Nationals are an institution on the Asia Pacific Sailing Calendar.
'Two days from the regatta start we have a fleet of 55 boats, more than last year. Over 80% of the fleet is from interstate or overseas. When you think the 2009 World Championships were held in Melbourne in March, it's a strong support vote for this event and a pretty amazing back-up for these sailors for whom holiday time is precious.'
The first Winter Championship was conducted in Mooloolaba in 1997. It attracted 25 boats and was won by Brisbane skipper David Rose, who will be on starting line again this year.
Since the first regatta the event has grown from strength to strength with previous winners including a 'who is who' of international sailing. Russell Coutts (1998), Ian Johnston (1999), Julian Plante (2000), Michael Coxon (2001), Mark Bradford (2002), Cameron Appleton (2003), Grant Wharington (2004), Rob Brown (2005), Cameron Miles (2006), Skip Lissiman (2007) and Graeme Taylor (2008) have all proudly held the Etchells Australian Winter Championship trophy. The runners up have been well known too, and include John Bertrand, Grant Simmer, Iain Murray, Colin Beashel and Noel Drennan.
Martin says the Winter Championship is about giving all Etchells skippers and crews the chance to enjoy top class competition. Mooloolaba is one of the few harbours in Australia to offer quick, easy access to the ocean.
The 2009 event will be based out of The Wharf complex at Mooloolaba. All competing boats will be berthed at the marina during the event adding to the visual excitement the Winter Championship brings to Mooloolaba each year.
In 2008 the recorded economic impact for this event had more than 300 visitors (sailors, support crew, family and friends) and 1,000 room nights spent on the Sunshine coast, making a contribution in excess of a third of a million dollars towards the local economy.
At a glance:
Thursday: registration and weigh-in of the crews takes place.
Format of the Event - six races conducted over three days, one result discard if five or more race sailed.
Mooloolaba also hosted the 2004 Etchells World Championship.
Musto Etchells Autralian Winter Championships