Decorated Goblets fleet led by Yandoo XX

There is local club racing, and then there’s the Etchells Sydney fleet fighting for the annual Milson Silver Goblets trophy on Sydney Harbour, and raising a warning flag for other states and nations on the strength of the NSW field preparing for next year’s world championship.

Half of the 26 Silver Goblets skippers are either past Etchells national champions, world champions in any class, America’s Cup sailors or Olympic representatives in sailing, and some fall into multiple top-level categories. Then there are the likes of Magpie’s crew, Iain Jensen and guest skipper Tom Slingsby driving for owner Graeme Taylor, who between them add Olympic gold medallist cachet to the talent mix.

Three races into the five-race twilight series on Sydney Harbour and the only female skipper, Jeanne-Claude (JC) Strong, leads the fleet by six points with her Etchells Yandoo XX.

Tactician Seve Jarvin said, “We’ve had three good starts and stayed in the top bunch. The courses are short, within the harbour’s natural boundaries, and that makes the starts all-important.  We aren’t winning races but we are finishing in the top two to four, and in the Etchells fleet that’s pretty solid. JC runs a very good program; she’s very dedicated to doing it properly and it’s good to see the results coming for us at the Queensland title and here,” Jarvin added.

Second on progressive scores is Rupert Henry’s Vivienne and third is Magpie, in spite of the crew playing musical chairs.

London Laser gold medallist and Oracle Team USA tactician Tom Slingsby skippered races one and three, and will see out the week, and Iain Jensen moved aft from mainsheet to tiller on Tuesday. Steve Jarvin and James Mayo are both regular Magpie crew and not long back from finishing second at the 2017 Etchells World Championship with Taylor at the helm. Jarvin’s holding onto his seat for this Goblets and Mayo jumped in as third crew when Slingsby needed a leave pass.

New Etchells Sydney fleet website https://sydneyetchells.org.au/ and full results so far at https://sydneyetchells.org.au/race-results

Some of the sport’s most decorated plus a strong youth component and class veterans have made the most of the late afternoon nor’easters and plenty of spring sunshine delivering sublime conditions for races one to three. An afternoon shower is forecast for Thursday November 16 and on Friday the Bureau of Meteorology is predicting the chance of an afternoon thunderstorm and sea breezes up to 20 knots.

Following a Mini Regatta race on Saturday afternoon, an evening trophy presentation back at the host Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron will celebrate the placegetters among the teams. The majority of the fleet sail for the host club with a small number representing the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club to the north and Cronulla Sailing Club to the south.

Keen to encourage the next generation of Etchells sailors and build on the class’ four-decade long legacy, as well as for strength and talent reasons, a number of owners are choosing to round out their crew with younger sailors and professionals such as Jarvin and tactician David Chapman sailing with Martin Hill on his Etchells called Lisa.

Tiana Wittey, the 18 year-old daughter of Olympic sailor turned coach Neville Wittey, is an important long-time member of Yandoo XX. “I’m consistently the youngest in the fleet,” she said. “At dad’s suggestion I hopped on Yandoo at a Newcastle regatta eight years ago when JC needed another 40 kilos of crew weight, and I’ve been there ever since.”

She says her crew worked hard over winter for the current season - two or three weekly on-water training sessions starting at 6am at the RSYS, plus gym work. Like many among the Goblets fleet, their aim is to qualify for the 2018 Etchells World Championship to be hosted by the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron.

Wittey notes there aren’t many women in the fleet and says, “One day I’d love to have an all-women crew. JC has been an incredible mentor; she’s taught me beyond sailing, about organisation and how to run a business.”

And Wittey threw down a challenge to other Etchells owners: “There’s no weigh-in, so why not grab a young boy or girl and throw them on board. Etchells racing needs to be affordable and accessible to attract young people.”

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By Lisa Ratcliff/OCC


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