Grant WHARINGTON (AUS), already well known as a highly talented sailor, is aiming at a unique double - taking line honours in a major ocean race and winning a World Championship, all within just over a week of sailing off the Australian East Coast.
Wharington, from Mornington on Port Phillip, will be at Mooloolaba on Queensland's Sunshine Coast this coming weekend to sail his Etchells one-design keelboat, Satu II, in a final preparation for the ACE Etchells World Championship 2004, with racing starting on Monday week, 2 August.
The winner of the Etchells Australian Winter Championship in June, Wharington is one of near 40 other World Championship contenders who will sail in the third and final ACE Pre-Worlds Regatta this Saturday and Sunday.
Then he will fly back to Sydney to complete final preparations to skipper his 30-metre super maxi Skandia in the 384 nautical mile Ingles Sydney Gold Coast Race starting at 1pm on Saturday, 31 July.
Wharington hopes that Skandia will sail the course up the New South Wales North Coast to the Queensland Gold Coast in better or close to the race record of 27 hours 35 minutes to give him ample time to get to Mooloolaba for the first race of the Etchells Worlds.
"We will have to dial up a big southerly for the Southport Race,"
he says. "A record run would get us there mid-afternoon on Sunday afternoon; Monday morning might make it close…perhaps it will mean a helicopter flight from the Gold Coast to the Sunshine Coast."
Wharington and his Etchells crew, Graeme TAYLOR and Simon GORMAN, have not raced Satu II since his dramatic last race, two boat-length victory over America's Cup winning skipper John BERTRAND, sailing Two Saints and a Magpie, in the Australian Winter Championship.
This weekend he will be up against Bertrand who last weekend tied with Pittwater yachtsman Rob BROWN steering Steam Packet V after only two races could be sailed in the ACE Pre-Worlds #2 regatta.
Brown has been a big improver since the Winter Championship, with a heat win in each of the two Pre-Worlds regattas. "We have been working hard on getting the starts right and putting together better first beats,"
the 1983 America's Cup Australia II crewman says. "In the short time we (Bruce WOOKEY and Gary GUDMONSON) have been together as a crew our results have been great,"
In addition to Wharington, Bertrand and Brown, most of the favourites for the Etchells Worlds will be racing this weekend including Bertrand's famous America's Cup rival and two-times Etchells World Champion Dennis CONNER sailing Menace, Brisbane fleet sailors Mark BRADFORD (Racer X) and John WARLOW (Blinkey 3 Eyed Fish), Michael Coxon (North Sydney) from the Sydney fleet, Julian PLANTE (Odyssey) from Pittwater, Mooloolaba's consistent David TURTON (1219), and 2004 Australian champion Mark BULKA, sailing Balanced A-Tac from Mornington.
After a disappointing result in the Australian Winter Championships, Bulka sailed impressively last weekend with a third a fifth in the ACE Pre-Worlds #2 regatta.
Tasmanian Andrew Hunn will also be back on the water this weekend with a brand new Etchells named Sputnik, replacing the one damaged beyond repair in the Winter Championship last month.