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22 February 2012, 09:43 am
Home Town Team Lead Etchells Worlds
Paul Westlake on the bow
Tom King helming the Iron Lotus around the leeward mark

Etchells World Championship
Sydney, Australia

Tom King stamped his name on Sydney back in September 2000 and it seems like he intends doing it again in 2012 as he steered his Iron Lotus team to overall lead on day three of the Etchells World Championship.
Australian skipper King and crew of Ivan Wheen, David Edwards and Owen McMahon have delivered consistent results in the first four races of the championship with a second, sixth, third and second. Many an expert sailor will argue that the pathway to success is just such a scorecard.

Into second place overall comes the Roulette team of USA skipper Jud Smith and Australian crew of Mark Johnson and Nik Burfoot. After a rollercoaster first race day, then no racing yesterday, Smith grabbed a confident first in race one of today and then a third in the shifty second race. His scorecard reads 3, 19, 1 and 3.

Into third overall is Australian Graeme Taylor with crew Steve Jarvin and Grant Simmer. Taylor seemed to have struggled with the heavier breeze today after finishing in 12th and then 10th place. This has given him total points of 27, just one behind Smith. With lighter breezes expected tomorrow, Taylor will be back on pace as long as he can handle the pressure on the start line.

The weather was far more kindly today for the 74-boat fleet contesting the Etchells World Championship 2012. The sea had calmed considerably and the wind was in the range that suited small boat, offshore racing.

The first race start was not without drama. With the top mark laid at 190 degrees for a 2.5 mile upwind leg, the race
committee were ready to send the fleet off on time. Just after the start gun the PRO, Ross Wilson, called a general recall due to problems on the start boat.

Ensuring the fleet got away on the second start, the Black Flag went up. Just thirty seconds before the start there was plenty of pushing on the line with most of the fleet choosing the right hand side of the mid-line signal boat.

Four boats were called over - 7PS (Ian Anderson), Anamchara (James McHugh), Dragon Lady (Bill Steele) and Racer X (Mark Thornburrow).

On the start line there was more drama for Marco Cimarosti with a port and starboard incident which resulted in damage to his boat and an end to his World Championship campaign.

Smith) took control of the race from the start leading around each mark and finishing in commanding form.

The fleet enjoyed a steady 12 knots at 190, but found the swell made steering difficult downwind. The pressure held at the top mark, but softened towards the bottom.

By the second work the front markers were well spread out across the course with more pressure towards the top end.

King said his team sailed well downwind in this race. "We made a few boats at the bottom of the first run, got around the bottom cleanly and then stayed where we were after that."

Cameron Miles had a brilliant race, shining in the heavier sea conditions and riding the waves on the downwind legs. He finally finished second, but with plenty of day light between Smith and himself.

Thornburrow kept racing finishing across the line in third place. Unfortunately his Black Flag penalty took him out of the placings and gave third place to Iron Lotus (Tom King).

Smith said of the first race of the day, "there wasn't as much current today. The big thing was getting off the line and holding the lane for a while. When it got a bit light and we got a good setting, we got going. Up the top we tried a shift here and there and we happened to get the shift at the end."

The race committee then set up the second race promptly after watching the breeze swing to 170 degrees before going further left to 165 at 15 to 17 knots. This was when the breeze reached its strongest for the day.

The first start was a general recall so the race committee went straight to a Black Flag start.

Triad (John Bertrand) looked to get the best start at the leeward pin. To windward was Smith.

There were three BFDs called - The Whole Way (Cameron Miles), Avalon (Michael Bellingham) and J for Jig (Philip O'Connor).

At the top mark with 17 knots, a long swell running and even with a slow kite hoist, Boat X (Noel Drennan) was in the lead with King about one boat length astern. The rounding was fast and the ride downhill exhilarating. At the bottom mark Smith had moved up to second place followed by The Croc (Michael Manford) and then King in fourth.

The crowd arrived after that with the waves catching them, surfing through the bottom gate and then into each other.

Back at the top mark for a second time, Drennan had his lead, four boat lengths ahead of Smith and King.

On the run King over-took Smith and then closed the distance on Drennan, but Drennan held on for the last gasp effort of riding the swell across the line to finish first.

"There were some quite big shifts from side to side in the second race. We basically went up the middle of the course and so we were able to use a little bit of each shift. The first beat was long and felt quite lonely in one respect as there were only a few boats in the middle.

"With only a few boats around us we could tack when we wanted to. The second beat was pretty similar. There was three or four of us and then a gap to the rest of the fleet so we were able to somewhat control where we were. We extended a bit on this leg. Both runs we lost a little bit.

"On the last run boats had pressure on either side of us so we had to make a commitment to cover one. Fortunately we chose Tom and we ended up quite close."
Drennan said.

There was more pressure on the left hand side of the course which helped King to finally get through Smith. "We started sailing a bit lower than Jud right from the top mark and we slowly separated. Down towards the finish we had a little more pressure than he did and we just slipped around in front of him," King said.

Smith was complimentary of King and his team's skills on the race course today. "On the two races they (Iron Lotus) passed us on the run. They are sailing a really consistent regatta. They are doing a little bit better technique, something that we need to improve on. They did a better job of surfing

"It was lumpy upwind and downwind. It seemed like the second race was worse, but that might have been because I was getting tired,"
Smith said.

Smith and King are cautious about tomorrow's forecasted light easterly. Smith thinks this will be the hardest day for this team with easterlies tending to be unpredictable while King is waiting for his luck to turn. "We are very conscious about getting off the line cleanly out there today and so we were pretty conservative about where."

There are seven protests being heard tonight. None should affect the top 10 placings.

Check out highlights from the Etchells Worlds on the ISAF TV Player.

Tracey Johnstone
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