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20 February 2012, 09:06 am
On The Bow Then, Still On The Bow Now
Paul Westlake on the bow
Etchells Nationals 2012, Paul Westlake on the bow for USA entry Menace skippered by Vince Brun

Etchells World Championship
Sydney, Australia

It's been 27 years since the Sydney Etchells Fleet hosted the Etchells World Championships.
In the ensuing years many of the competitors have raced on other boats, in other classes and at other events.

One competitor from the 1984 Etchells World Championship who has done the full circle finishing back in Sydney, at the Etchells Worlds, on the start line today and still on the bow, is 50-year-old Paul Westlake.

In 1984 Westlake was bow for the Iain Murray and Peter Gilmour team that won the Worlds.

"1984 was a long time ago and I was just a few years younger," said Westlake. "Since '84 the boats haven't changed, but the way we sail them has. They have become much more technically refined boat to what they were back in '84. I remember we were all still experimenting with rig tune and being able to get through the variances of five knots to 25 knots.

"Today, these boats are all set-up with choking systems, mast butt changing, really easy adjustable rigging screws. Today three quarters of this fleet would have beaten David Curtis and ourselves who were first and second in '84. The boats are more refined and the sail package is also way more refined.

"But at the end of the day it is still one-design racing and the differences in speed is inches."


Since 1984 Westlake has been on an Etchells at a major event only once; he raced last week's Australian Championship. After 1984 Gilmour, Murray and Westlake were involved in the Kookaburra America's Cup challenge with Task Force '87. Gilmour and Westlake were also involved in a pre-Olympic campaign sailing the Soling class. The 1987 America's Cup campaign then become 1992 and 1995.

"In 1984 everybody starting realising that weight on the side made the boats go faster. It was the first time everybody concentrated on being heavy. We were one of the heaviest.

"The weight restriction came in I think in 1985 and it meant someone like myself that weighs only 81 kilos, my only position at that time that I could have sailed on an Etchells was on the helm. But my direction went other ways with big boat sailing."


This year Westlake is in a four-man team racing with USA skipper and another Etchells World Champion, Vince Brun, along with Michael Coxon and one of the youngest members of the fleet, Harry Smith.

His Etchells results to date are now a first and then a fifth. He will no doubt be wishing for a bit of the old 1984 luck for the Menace team in this year's Etchells World Championship to bring his average down from third and back to first.
Tracey Johnstone
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