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16 February 2004, 10:31 am
Champion Sailors| Close Duel In Etchells Titles
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International Etchells NSW Championship

America's Cup, Olympic and World champion sailors Neville WITTEY and John BERTRAND are just one point apart going into tomorrow's final race of the NSW State Championship for the International Etchells yachting class on Sydney Harbour.
Australia's largest one-design keelboat class has attracted a fleet of 47 boats, with a depth of talent not seen since the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games regatta, not just among helmsmen but in the crews of the three-crew boat.

Discarding his worst race so far in the seven heat series, Wittey, the current Yngling keelboat champion, provisionally has 14 points on the leader board, notching up two firsts and a third at the helm of Yandoo in today's fresh south-easterly breeze, which at times gusted to 25 knots.

Bertrand, famous as the winning skipper of Australia II in the 1983 America's Cup, has 15 points on the board with Two Saints and a Magpie, scoring two wins and a second the first three races on Sunday. His results today, however, were not as good, a 27, a second and a ninth.

Wittey's points are flexible as he was awarded average points for race one after being forced to retire as a result of a multi-boat collision at the windward mark which saw two boats, including another America's Cup skipper, Iain MURRAY, disqualified.

Wittey's current average points for race won are seven, but the final points will not be determined until after tomorrow's seventh heat and may further improve his points advantage.

In third place overall after six heats is North Sydney Station, skippered by another America's Cup sailor, Michael COXON, on 22 points, followed by Steam Packet V (Rob BROWN) 28 points, Tom Pepper VIIII (Peter O'NEILL) 31, Pacesetter (Cameron MILES) 40 and Kaenon (Iain MURRAY) 43 points.

Race six today saw a fine win by 22-year-old Michael DUNSTAN at the helm of Predator, sailing in his first championship in the International Etchells class.

In a great tactical race to the finish, Dunstan beat Iain MURRAY by just 16 seconds, with only eight seconds back to Neville WITTEY.
Peter Campbell (As Amended by ISAF)
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