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18 November 2006, 03:19 pm
SMITH Wins Opening Race
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Audi Etchells World Championship 2006
Fremantle, Australia

Jud SMITH (USA) and his three crew on Feng Shui won the opening race of the 2006 Audi Etchells World Championship in Fremantle, Australia. The American took the gun ahead of the teams of Alastair GAIR (NZL) and Andy BEADSWORTH (GBR).
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SMITH, three-times North American Champion, has finished second on four occasions in the Etchells Worlds. Today at the 2006 Audi Etchells Worlds the New Englander signalled that he is not planning to be a bridesmaid again.

Aiming to do one better in the fresh Fremantle conditions, SMITH changed from the traditional three man crew to four up for these Worlds.

Close Fight

In a close race sailed in a classic 'Fremantle Doctor', which started in the low teens and built to the twenties, SMITH started what he hopes will be his first winning World Championship regatta. SMITH won the first race in the eight race series ahead of New Zealander Etchells Champion GAIR and BEADSWORTH. The very experienced Briton has only recently joined the class, after competing very successfully in the Soling class.

Up the second beat SMITH sailed through the 1999 Etchells World Champion Pittwater's Cameron MILES (AUS), to lead by 26 seconds. MILES has not finished off the podium in the last six Etchells Worlds and reminded the fleet of this fact this afternoon. He was fifth around the top mark and stormed down the run to lead at the bottom gate.

MILES recalled, 'We were smoking down the first run, then Jud got through us on a shift, then round the bottom mark for the last time we were leeward boat and the breeze shifted 10 degrees inside us and that cost us two more places. We have good speed, so we are looking forward to tomorrow.'

SMITH All Smiles

Dockside SMITH was smiling. 'It was good to get the practice race under our belt yesterday with the four of us; we were still trying to figure out who was going to pull which string. Today was a tight day. It was a really close race, we were third around the top mark, we'd sorted out some things, we had a much better run and I feel a lot better about that.

'There were lots of wind shifts and so lots of lead changes. We sailed through Cameron MILES the early leader on the second beat. Then Alastair GAIR crossed us up the third beat, again with a shift. The New Zealanders were very fast today. I was warned before the regatta they were going quick, and they certainly are.'

BEADSWORTH, was second at the top mark, but fell back to fourth. 'We made a tactical blunder; we went round the wrong bottom mark. We chipped away and then round the bottom mark the last time we stayed right and got a shift.'

Former Champs Struggle

Buried near the tail of the fleet were two former World Champions. British sailor Stuart CHILDERLEY the 2001 and 2002 champion and one of the form skippers in this regatta ducked back behind the line, after seeing an OCS signal at the start. He had not been pinged and the 100 metres start he gave the fleet delivered him a painful 27th.

It was worse for the 2004 winner, Australian Peter MCNEIL, who followed his mainsheet hand overboard, when the fine tune splice join parted.

'We had a glamour start for the first three seconds,' said MCNEIL. 'Our 44th put us in the first day drop league.'

And the final word from today's winner SMITH. 'Looking at the high quality of this fleet, I think the scores are really going to be up and down. It will be easy to be in the 20's and 30's and we will all see some of that... we will just try to do less than most.'

The World Championship title sponsor Audi Australia also sponsored the 2006 Audi Etchells Nationals. Audi Australia are supporting a wide range of Australian sailing events including the Audi Hamilton Island Race Week and the Audi Regatta in Sydney, and will be certain to make this a memorable event. The Maersk shipping Line is another Premium Sponsor and their support has meant that 28 containers have brought Etchells to Perth from around the world.

Rob Kothe (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Action from Fremantle:© Andrea Francolini
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