Two young skippers, Julian PLANTE and Lucas DOWN, and their lightweight crews made yachting history at the Championship today when they outsailed many of the worlds's most experienced yachtsmen to each win a heat of the eight race regatta.
They each led from start to finish in the huge 85-boat fleet that included America's Cup legends, former World Champions and Olympians, showing brilliant sailing skills and race tactics in the 12-15 knot northerly breeze and lumpy seas.
Plante, 31, from Pittwater's Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club, sailed Odyssey to victory in heat two this morning while 28-year-old Lucas DOWN from the host club, Mooloolaba Yacht Club, helmed Whooska to win this afternoon's heat on the Pacific Ocean off Queensland's Sunshine Coast.
Both boats sailed with a crew of four, as against the normal three-man boats, the first time in the 29-year history of the Etchells class that a four-crew boat has won a heat of a World Championship. The one-design class has a maximum crew weight of 285kg, enabling four-man crews for those with lighter sailors on board.
Down's crew included the youngest competitor in the fleet, 15-year-old Sean O'ROURKE, from Mooloolaba, the current Australian champion in the Sabot dinghy class. "He was over the moon in being aboard a yacht that had won a World Championship heat,"
his skipper said back at Mooloolaba Yacht Club.
Both skippers said they sailed to a pre-conceived plan in each of the races they won today, based on conditions in yesterday's first race. "We went inshore, looking for flatter water and had a clear air start that put us into the lead at the first windward mark,"
On the other hand, Down elected to go offshore in the second race looking for stronger wind. Of sailing with a crew of four, Down commented: "It's an extra set of hands, hands and brains."
No so fortunate was another young competitor, Adam EMILARI, 17, from Wellington, New Zealand. He was hit in the nose by the boom of the Youth Team yacht, No Boundaries, during a crash tack near the end of heat three and tonight is in Nambour Hospital.
He is understood to have suffered a fractured nose and possible concussion and was semi-conscious when brought ashore. He is reported to be in a stable condition.
Both races today were sailed in 12-15 knot breezes with lumpy seas and significant wind shifts that has seen many of the "heavies" of sailing in the Etchells one-design class produce inconsistent results in the three races sailed so far.
Leading the overall pointscore is Lake Macquarie sailmaker Peter MCNEILL, skippering Tom Piper XVII, with placings of 2-8-11 for 21 points. He is ten points clear of former World Champion Cameron MILES with Pacesetter who has placed 11-12-8 and Bruce MCBRIAR from Melbourne, helming Fast Forward to 12-10-9, with each on 31 points.
Tasmanian Andrew HUNN is fourth overall with Zulu, on 33 points after placings of 7-7-19, while current Australian champion Mark Bulka, fifth overall with Balanced A-Tack, on 37 points with a 20-13-4 scorecard. Julian Plante is sixth overall while today's other winner, Lucas Down, is 23rd in the fleet.
World number one Etchells skipper, America's Cup legend John BERTRAND from Melbourne is 12th overall, with better results today, a 4th and a 13th after yesterday's 37th with Two Saints and a Magpie.
His America's Cup rival of 21 years ago, Dennis CONNER from San Diego, sailing Menace, followed his 23 place in race one with an 11 in the first race today, but then had a shocker, placing 44. He is back in 24 place.
Two-times past Etchells World Champion John SAVAGE from Melbourne, could not repeat this third place from race one, today recording a reasonable 15 followed by a midfleet 41. Nevertheless, he is still 14 overall with Cobra IV.
In heat two this morning, Odyssey (Julian PLANTE) from the Perth yachtsman Rob BIRD, sailing Moody Blues who finished just two seconds ahead of Melbourne skipper Ian JOHNSON, helming Bananas in Pyjamas. John BERTRAND, also from Melbourne, placed fourth in Two Saints and a Magpie followed by Brisbane fleet sailor Mark BRADFORD with Racer X and Steam Packet V (Rob BROWN) from Pittwater.
In heat three this afternoon, Whooska (Lucas DOWN) won from Brisbane fleet's David ROSE, steering the War of the Roses, who fought back to beat the experienced Sydney yachtsman Peter GARDNER at the helm of Humpback. Australian champion Mark BULKA, sailing Balanced A-Tac from Mornington, placed fourth, with local sailor David TURTON finishing fifth with 1219, and Adelaide Chris Pratt sixth with Squid.
Full results are available on the event website at the address below.