What an eventful season it has been for the Brisbane Etchells fleet, and not for all the usual reasons one would expect from a sailing fleet.
The 2019/2020 season was always going to be a challenging year after the full dance card of the Etchells States/Worlds and Nationals of the previous season all hosted by the Brisbane Fleet. The core of our strategy for this season was to keep as many boats as possible continuing to enjoy club racing without the pressure of qualifications and cut-throat competition. Call it a rebuild, reset or restart without the black flag, everyone was welcome on the race course.
With a new committee and a back-to-basics approach, we started quietly with 4-5 boats in September ’19 as regular starters which built up to 8-10 by November and into the second half of the season in the lead-up to fleets. Impressively, while the number of Etchells was down (as expected), RQYS racing on all courses was nothing short of spectacular, especially on the northern course. World’s ‘Etchellers’ jumped across to the VXs, Finns and other classes and in some very challenging 20-knot plus days throughout October and November, the course was packed with those enjoying sailing at its best on Waterloo Bay. We congratulate the RQ volunteers and sailing committee on the growth of Saturday sailing across all classes.
We welcomed three new owners who have been dedicated to regular racing and we are especially pleased to see a large contingent of female crew members battling it out each week. Hopefully we see more of these crew become skippers and boat owners in the future.
Throughout 2019, especially in the off-season we thank: those involved in working to develop a youth team; Noel Patterson for the energy and spirit to kick it off with the generous support of Hume Campbell providing his Etchells; and dedicated coaching by Greg Kemp. We were anticipating the program to solidify into 2020, but unfortunately this wasn’t be.
The challenges of other classes all vying for young sailing talent meant we couldn’t keep the cohort intact. In short, we need to find another way. Several fleets across Australia are having similar challenges, with even the definition of ‘youth’ moving to beyond 30 years of age, we will need to refocus our recruitment strategy and take a different tack if we revive the program. Etchells continues to be celebrated as the ‘go-to’ one-design class worldwide, but for this to continue we do need to attract new talent. We will refocus our efforts in the coming season. Of note was a push by regular racing crews to add RQ youth sailors onto Etchells throughout the season. Please, let’s keep this up. The move to using TeamApp for crew allocation throughout the season also worked well.
We also ran a ‘Try Etchells’ day early in the season which resulted in several participants returning as crew subsequent club races. We were planning an additional session in 2020, when the season was prematurely abandoned owing to unforeseen events.
Unfortunately due to COVID-19 restrictions we didn’t get to celebrate the efforts of the skippers and crews at the awards night and much deserved congratulations goes to Bradley Ginnivan and his crew on ‘The Front Bar’ for winning both the squadron season and championship series and David Healey and his crew on Rapscallion for winning the performance handicap series. It was great see ‘and hear’ the banter between crews as it neared season end with the result being closely contested. Well done to all.
COVID restrictions also brought an abrupt close to the racing calendar with only a few days to go until the Brisbane Fleet Championships, we were disappointed to have to cancel the event, but understand the need to keep everyone safe and healthy in these challenging times. Many thanks to Noel Patterson and squad for stepping into maintenance mode and mower man while RQ tightened services during the restrictions, this is greatly appreciated.
The tradition of David Healey’s legendary BBQs have been passed to our Treasurer Chris Nezmah’s expert culinary skills, and there is now high demand for his killer chicken wings. Nothing beats a great day on the bay followed by a feed at the hardstand, and we are all certainly looking forward to getting back to that very soon.
I would also like to thank Laurie Wood & Chris Nezmah for their service on the Fleet committee, there is always much to in the background to keep the wheels turning so thank you for your efforts.
Here’s to hoping the new season kicks off and we enjoy a full season of racing in the coming months.
Brisbane Etchells Fleet Captain
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