Andy Beadsworth and team head fleet at Etchells world championship after two races 27/6/07

The first day of racing at the Etchells World Championship, hosted by the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club, Cowes, brought two incredibly challenging races for the 45-boat, eight nation fleet.

With rain squalls running across the Solent on a regular basis the wind was constantly shifting by up to 40 degrees and ranged in velocity from 6-16 knots. The difficulty of the conditions is amply demonstrated by the results with only three teams – GBR1361 Andy Beadsworth, GBR1332 James Howells and NZL1058 Anatole Masfen – ending the day with two single digit race results.

The Race Committee experienced its own dramas when the principle committee boat caught fire as a result of an electrical fault. Fortunately the crew successfully fought the fire without assistance before transferring to another boat to continue their duties, leaving the competitors none the wiser until the end of the race.

Overall Andy Beadsworth, sailing with Oscar Strugstad and Simon Fry, is leading having won the first race very convincingly and taken sixth in the second. James Howells, sailing with David Bedford and Oscar Mead is in second place with a 3, 5 score line while defending World Champion Jud Smith, sailing USA1351, and Anatole Masfen, sailing NZL1058, are both on 12 points with Smith scoring 10, 2 and Masfen scoring 4, 8 to place them 3rd and 4th respectively.

The first race of the series (technically Race 3 in the official schedule following the postponement of Monday’s Races 1 and 2) got underway on time and in about 12 knots from 310 degrees. On the first beat the wind began to back and a change of course was signalled at the first mark where Nils Razmilovic headed the fleet just in front of Ted Fort, Andy Beadsworth, Doug Flynn and Anatole Masfen.

On the run Beadsworth pulled up right onto Nils Razmilovic’s transom and as the two came into the leeward mark there was nothing to choose between them. Meanwhile the wind had continued to go left and at the mark the committee boat was signalling a new weather mark direction of 270 degrees. Fort had dropped back into fifth place, but on the final approach Masfen and Flynn overstood and had to reach in allowing Fort to slip between the two and into fourth place.

As they took off up the second beat Beadsworth initially went right while Nils Razmilovic took left. About a third of the way up Nils Razmilovic was looking good but the wind still had plenty of tricks up its sleeve and by the weather mark Beadsworth had sailed a blinder and rounded with a huge lead.

Fort meanwhile had moved into second ahead of Nils Razmilovic. The wind shifts had caught lots of people on the hop and equally allowed several boats to make massive gains. Ireland’s Tom Fitzpatrick and Britain’s Ante Razmilovic were the biggest gainers in this shuffle rounding fourth and fifth respectively just ahead of James Howells with Masfen now in seventh.

The wind went very light as the boats started off down the run then about half way down the leg the next rain squall came through turning the leg into a tight reach. The squall also brought stronger wind which reached the back of the fleet first and within moments virtually the fleet was once again closely bunched. “At one point we were pole forward on the forestay going no where and Richard Merriweather came storming through from 25 yards behind, passing us just 8ft away with his pole back and 8 knots of wind to end up 25 yards ahead.” Commented Laurence Mead of this second run nightmare. Beadsworth played a conservative game and was able to defend his generous lead round the leeward mark and up the short beat to the finish but behind him it was all to play for. Ultimately Nils Razmilovic finished second with Howells third, Masfen fourth and Ante Razmilovic fifth. Fort crossed the line in sixth only to discover that he and Flynn had both been over the line at the start and were disqualified.

The start of the second race (officially Race 4 on the results) was delayed by some three hours as the wind went round in circles under successive squalls. For the crews it was a cold, wet and miserable wait but eventually the wind settled, the committee set up with the windward mark at 260 degrees and racing got underway in approximately 12 knots.

Sadly the wind did not stay stable for long and at the weather mark the committee was signalling a change of leeward mark to 130 degrees.

James Howells, sailing GBR1332 with David Bedford and Oscar Mead led the fleet away down the run with Andy Beadsworth and Jud Smith in hot pursuit. The pack was closely bunched and places were changing all the way. At the first leeward mark Beadsworth had just edged into the lead and took the left side of the gate with Howells going right. The second beat brought another massive shift and it was all change again with different faces hitting the front of the fleet every few minutes.

By the final leeward mark Australia’s Noel Drennan, sailing with Mal Parker and Wade Morgan, had taken the lead and he held it through the long final beat to the finish. At the last leeward mark Graham Bailey, sailing GBR1352 with Stephen Bailey and David Heritage, was at the back of the leading group and decided extreme measures were called for, heading for the left-hand corner despite the theoretically stronger tide on that side of the course. As he came back to the fleet in the final approaches to the finish he and Smith were neck and neck with Smith gaining the upper hand on the final tack to take second place with Bailey third. Mike Sparks, sailing GBR1297 and crewed by Solent gurus Barry Dunning and Eddy Warwick slipped into fourth with Howells fifth and Beadsworth sixth.

Back ashore the extreme weather conditions during the first race were the subject of much discussion and a protest was lodged to have the race thrown out, however the jury dismissed the protest and the results of both races stand.

Today’s forecast is for south-westerly winds in the mid teens but with more showers also forecast conditions are likely to remain unstable. Two further races are scheduled for today with the first signal planned for 1100.

Results (after two races)
1 GBR 1361, Andy Beadsworth 1, 6 – 7pts
2 GBR 1332, James Howells 3, 5 – 8pts
3 USA 1351, Jud Smith 10, 2 – 12pts
4 NZL 1058, Anatole Masfen 4, 8 – 12pts
5 GBR 1333, Ante Razmilovic 5, 15 – 20pts
6 IRL 1015, David Burrows 11, 9 – 20pts
7 HKG 1051, Mark Thornburrow 12, 12 – 24pts
8 AUS 1150, Bill Steele 19, 7 – 26
9 AUS 1215, Noel Drennan 26, 1 – 27pts
10 AUS 1250, Jervis Tilly 16, 13 – 29pts