Glorious blue skies, with puffy whites clouds, prevailed over Fremantle and the Cockburn Sound course, the same area that will be used for the Audi World Championship.
After tight racing over the first five races, the Swan River fleet's Michael MANFORD's (AUS) The Croc and the BULKA's Balanced-A-TAC tied going into the final race, setting the stage for a duel between the two boats to decide the 2006 Syd Corser Championship.
Three points back, 2005 Australian Champion Rob BROWN and 2003 Australian Etchells Champion and Australia II skipper John BERTRAND, were set to battle for third place.
BULKA won the start from the pin and sailed into a ten degree left hand shift and sailed away from the fleet. Two thirds of the way up the first beat, BULKA had cleared out 20 lengths on Dirk VAN DER STRUYF's (AUS) Liquidity, who was the top WA boat at the Mooloolaba mid-winters, in third place just to leeward, was MANFORD.
As the fleet approached the top mark there was a 20 degree wind shift, and those boats over on the right of the course came back into contention.
BULKA rounded just 25 seconds ahead of VAN DER STRUYF, who was still just holding out MANFORD. In fourth place Grant KITTO's (AUS) The Rat, was ahead of Skip LISSIMAN (AUS) who was definitely back on the Bandwagon. Next was BROWN's Steampacket IV, with BERTRAND's Triad buried mid fleet. BROWN looked set for third place overall.
Down the first run the breeze began to freshen, BULKA extended his lead slightly and MANFORD sailed through VAN DER STRUYF.
At the top mark for the second time, BULKA had increased his lead to 40 seconds. MANFORD was 15 seconds ahead of VAN DER STRUYF and LISSIMAN had sailed up close, BROWN was right with him. BERTRAND was another 40 seconds back in seventh place.
There was just not enough runway for MANFORD to snatch a win, the wind shift turning the run into a reach, and BULKA took the gun and the title.
38 year old Bulka, from Rosebud, sails in Victoria's Mornington Peninsula fleet. He has sailed two Olympic campaigns in the Finn and has won a slew of state and national titles and will certainly be amongst the favourites in the Australian titles and the Audi Etchells Worlds.
'We started sailing Etchells in 2002, we spent some time hacking about mid-fleet trying to figure how to go fast. A new boat and new sails, and we won the Nationals in 2004, but I still don't think we knew all that much.
'But this year has been good. John BERTRAND and ourselves both use Quantum Sails; the Melbourne loft has been very helpful, so we are on the same sail program making small changes each week. We have been making progress. We were third in the mid-winters.
'Cockburn Sound is a fantastic place to sail. It's incredibly shifty, the wind always seems to be moving one way or the other.
'This was an interesting regatta. MANFORD's new boat was going well. John BERTRAND had the best pace, in the heavier conditions, but was not so strong in the light stuff, that suited us more. Michael MANFORD, Rob BIRD and Skip LISSIMAN had the local knowledge.
'We are looking forward to the Worlds. But we will have a little pain before then, we have to do some work on our weight. We had to run for an hour to meet the weight limit [for this regatta]. So we will be training and having weekly weigh ins for the next month.'
The Audi Etchells Worlds will be raced from 17-26 November and is shaping up as one of the best ever with 28 international crews shipping their boats to Perth. The 'final preview event' will be the Australian national titles from 10-12 November and the entire Australian and International fleet is expected to assemble for at this event, ahead of the Worlds.
All three events are being sailed in the same course area. The Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club (RFBYC) and the Royal Perth Yacht Club (RPYC) are the host clubs for the 2006 Audi Etchells Worlds with the Fremantle Sailing Club providing the venue.
More information including Notices of Race for all these events are online now at www.etchellsworlds2006.org.
The Royal Perth Yacht Club (RPYC) and Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club (RFBYC) are the host clubs, and Fremantle Sailing Club is providing the venue.
Major Sponsor: Audi Australia. Premium Sponsors: Maersk Line, Pro Choice Safety Products, Fontys Pool Wines and Events Corp. Support Sponsors: Superdata, Perth Integrated Health Clinic.