Some of the worlds best sailors head to Cowes for Etchells worlds 21/6/07

This week Etchells sailors from Italy, Australia, Sweden, Ireland, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Bermuda, the USA and Britain are congregating at the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club, Cowes in preparation for the 2007 Etchells World Championship which runs from Monday 25-30.

Forty-six of the world’s top sailors, who have all been required to qualify to represent their countries, will be battling it out in the central Solent for the right to claim the Etchells World title – one of the most prestigious in international sailing.

Leading the overseas charge and among the hot favourites is current World Champion Jud Smith from Marblehead, USA. Jud and his crew of David McClintock and Steve Girling will be using a boat chartered from Cowes based Etchells builder David Heritage and will be out on the water this week tuning up and making final equipment selections.

Another American team to watch is Tom Hughes, Ron Rosenburg and Bill Bennett, whose combined experience in major Etchells regattas makes impressive reading. Jake Gunther, sailing with Andrew Cooper and Russell Tyson, heads up the Australian contingent and made an early declaration of intent by coming fourth at last weekend’s British Etchells Nationals, which was raced in the World Championship race area with the Worlds Race Committee officiating. New Zealander Jon Andrews with crew Anatole Masfen and Andrew Wills, came fifth at the Nationals and also have their sights set on a podium place next week.

The British home fleet is likely to give Jud Smith his closest competition with the leading British crews currently battle hardened on the Solent after a closely fought world qualifying series. Former British Olympian Andy Beadsworth is sailing with Oscar Strugstad and Simon Fry (aka Stir Fry). This team came together for the first time in Miami earlier this year, won their first regatta at the Piana Cup and have been on scorching form ever since with impressive performances in the worlds qualifying series followed by a stunning victory at the British Nationals with four wins and a third place discard.

Asked about how he rated his chances in the championship Andy Beadsworth was cautiously confident. “We certainly don’t expect to win but we’re in the hunt. There are some people we haven’t sailed against before, in particular some of the Americans, who could be interesting, but we know that if we sail well we are capable of beating them. Although we, the Razmilovics, Jud Smith and some of the Australians are used to the big courses some of the Brits in particular are not so used to it and that may be good for us. I think we’re in with a chance of winning but I’m just looking forward to a great week sailing with Oscar and Stir Fry.”

Graham Bailey, crewed by Stephen Bailey and David Heritage, placed second at the Nationals and is hoping that their performance, which has been improving throughout the qualifying trials, will peak next week. Bailey commented: “We’re very pleased with our boat now and we won the final race at the Nationals. Andy is supremely fast and well prepared so we were pleased to take a race off him. I think the writing is on the wall as far as the Worlds are concerned as Andy is sailing so well and has an impressively complete game so it’s going to be hard to beat him. I think Jud Smith is going to have to be superfast to deal with him at the moment. That said it’s still a sailboat race so anything can happen!”

Ante Razmilovic, crewed by Jez Fanstone and Stuart Flinn, who came third at the 06 worlds, also took third in the Nationals and will be hoping to improve on that next week. Ante’s brother Nils, generally thought to be the faster of the two, has been in excellent form all season and appeared to get off to a great start in the Nationals winning the first two races. Sadly it transpired he was OCS in both which dashed his chances of ultimate victory and he ended up 14th overall. Despite being disappointed with his result at the Nationals Nils is a very focused man and he and his crew of Brian Hammersley and Charlie Cumbley will be back and determined to prove they have what it takes next week.

Although the number of entries for this World Championship is relatively low the competition looks set to be even more intense than usual. “The big fleet stuff means it’s possible to get buried in the pack but with a smaller fleet it’s a more exclusive situation and you end up racing more evenly with just the better guys. You’ve got to be really fast and there’s no excuse for not getting a good start. You have to guarantee you can hold your lane and keep your speed against the other guys.” Added Bailey.