San Diego has been anticipating this week’s Etchells World Championship with a year-long series of competitive sailing battles off the shores of Point Loma California.  On a day when the 2011 Championship had already been sealed and the skipper and crew from USA 979 respectfully declined to race and watched the action from a spectator boat, many other outcomes of the regatta were still up for grabs including a 3 point spread between Australia’s 1026 Noel Drennan and USA’s 1227 Vince Brun.  Brun and crew started the regatta with four top 4 finishes, but their momentum slowed with finishes of 7, 14, and 9 leading up to the final race.  Meanwhile, Drennan threw out a Day One finish of 21st place and finished in the top 9 in every race following.

Another close match was for 6th through 10th place.  On Friday USA 946 Craig Healy won the race by over a minute to move up to 6th, leading AUS 1278 Michael John Hiatt by 4 points, USA 1060 Dennis Conner by 5, USA 1152 Keith Whittemore by 11, and USA 1375 Argyle Campbell by 13.
The final race day (Saturday) began with lighter winds from a 220 – 250 axis as the fleet arrived in the racing area.  As the competitors sorted themselves out, the race committee patiently waited for the breeze to settle in to a relatively stable 10-12 knots at the 240 axis. The R/C set the final course (2.1 mile legs).  The fleet was anxious, and anxious to get to the right as well, and piled onto the right segment of the line. Twice, General Recalls were signaled.  The R/C dropped the right side of the line back to 255 and the Black Flag was raised for start attempt #3.  Competitors focused and a clean start was off just before 1220.
The spectator fleet on the right side of the course grew on this fine Saturday from about a dozen at the start to more than 20 in the afternoon as the sun broke through the Marine layer.
The boats competing for top 5 finishes were not in the first group of boats around the weather mark, as USA 794 Steve Pacelli, USA 1060 Dennis Conner, BER 1392 Mark Watson, USA 935 Dave Ullman, and USA 1152 Keith Whittemore rounded first.  USA 969 Chris Busch was 18th around the first mark, AUS 1026 Drennan was 24th and USA 1227 Vince Brun was 32nd.
1152 Keith Whittemore became the star of Race 9.  Whittemore and crew took the lead on the 2nd upwind leg, leading 2nd place 1060 Conner by a few boat lengths.  Conner touched the mark during the rounding, and did his penalty turn as a few boats passed him by.  Meanwhile, Whittemore took off and added a full 1:13 lead over the pack at the next mark and cruised to the Race 9 victory with a 1:40 advantage over 2nd place.
Back at the 2nd windward mark, the overall race for 2nd place in the regatta came to a head.  1227 Brun rounded just after 1026 Drennan and had a downwind/upwind sequence left to try to make up the 3 point deficit.  After the downwind leg, Drennan had a three boat lead, rounded the left gate and continued left up the course.  Hoping the right side would pay off, 1227 Brun rounded and headed up the right side of the course.  As the fleet converged at the top of the course, 1026 Drennan finished 8th with 1227 Brun in 25th (their new throw out score).  2nd Place in the regatta would belong to AUS 1026 Drennan (Drennan previously finished 3rd in the 1997 Etchells Worlds in Hong Kong).
USA 904 Will Stout, who won Race 6 made consistent progress through the field and was able to finish 2nd in the race, moving up to 12th overall in the regatta.  USA 969 Chris Busch finished 6th in Race 9 and claimed 4th place in the Championship.
USA 666 Don Jesberg who finished the regatta with 18th place finishes on Friday and Saturday, was 5th place in the Championship as the top Corinthian (non-professional) team.  Past champion and sailing icon Dennis Conner and crew were 5th on Saturday and 6th overall.
Thanks go out to the consistent work from San Diego Yacht Club’s Race Committee including PRO Bill Stump, the judges, and all of the member and guest volunteers for putting together an incredible week.  SDYC will conclude the week’s events Saturday night with an Around-The-World Buffet dinner and awards ceremony where all the sailors will be recognized for their achievements.
The Etchells is a racing sailboat designed in 1966 by Skip Etchells. The boat weighs a minimum f 1508 kilos, and is crewed by a crew of three or four with a maximum combined crew weight of 285 kilos or 628.3 pounds. Known for its strong adherence to one design rules, the class has grown from approximately six boats in 1967 to almost 1400 boats worldwide.
The 2011 Etchells World Championship has been hosted by SDYC from June 6-11. The Etchells is a proving ground for professional sailors worldwide, with many going onto or participating in the America’s Cup. For more information for to www.ot etchellsworlds2011.com.