A rig and muscle stretching 20-25 knot South Easterly breeze loaded with gusts recorded to 27 knots on shore provided a test of fresh wind sailing for the World's best Etchells crews off Queensland's Sunshine Coast today.
The event listed as a non-point scoring race in the 2002-3 Australian championship only attracted 27 of the 45 crews to the start line with 14 braving the elements to complete the short windward leeward type course.
Dennis Conner winner of the American and New Zealand championships was among the early withdrawals that considered there was nothing to gain and a lot to lose when the gusty breeze tested the strength of both flesh and fabric and new sails.
As expected some of the less experienced crews struggled for control on the torrid slog into the building wind and waves only to feature in some equally scary moments during a series of uncontrolled broaches when caught at an odd angle while running down the face of the white capped ground swell.
However as the weaker crews got weaker the strong got a lot stronger by demonstrating their individual class to master the upper class sailing limit of 25 knots and the regular gusts above.
John Bertrand expressed his internationally famed reputation as a skipper to never toss in the towel to lead a Victorian domination of the race when he and his high performance crew including Ed Lawrence piloted Two Saints and a Magpie to an impressive win over the defending National champion skipper Noel Drennan and the Sydney 2000 Olympic Gold Medallist Tom King.
Sure it was no easy day at the office but at least this trio have proved they will be in the thick of the action when the battle lines for the National Title are drawn on the windy waters off Point Cartwright tomorrow morning.
A strong wind warning has been issued for waters between Sandy Cape and Coolangatta and the forecast for 25-30 knot winds will force Principal Race Officer Arthur Hodge to constantly monitor the velocity because the Etchells have a maximum velocity of 25 knots written into the class sailing rules.
Late this afternoon the typical trade wind had intensified to a constant 30 knots south of the race course at Cape Moreton and if this pattern continues then the World standard Etchells fleet could be forced to face a no race day tomorrow.