2006 Audi Etchells Worlds: Robo's Blog

Exclusive Reporting from the 2006 Audi Etchells Worlds in Fremantle, Western Australia

2006 Etchells Worlds Day 5

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DAY 8 - JUD SMITH NAILS IT! - 11/25/06Boston skipper Jud Smith nailed down his first Etchells World Championship by closing out the series with a near flawless race off Fremantle, Western Australia. The reigning U.S. National Champion proved that, even over a wide range of wind conditions, he is the king of the class. Victory in today's race- combined with two firsts, a second, a sixth, and a fourth-gave Smith a four-point margin over second place Alastair Gair of New Zealand.Stepping ashore after the race, Smith expressed great relief to have finally won the regatta in which he has placed second so many times before. "I finally got that monkey off my back," he said. "It was a tough race. The breeze came in a little more than we expecting, and we weren't necessarily tuned up for that amount of velocity. But it was all about the start. We had a good start off the line, and we were okay up the first beat." Smith said it hasn't really sunk in that he has finally won. "After all these years," he said with a wistful tone is his voice, "I can't tell you how many times I've sailed the worlds, I don't recall…" Prior to the race, America's Cup legend John Bertand had words of encouragement for Smith. "I have enough second third and fourth place trophies in the cabinet.," said Smith. "I had a nice conversation with Bertrand before the race, and he said, 'You know there is no second, no one cares.' That was a great comment."Smith continued, "The reality is, it didn't really matter. We were just going to try and uncork a good one at the start and let the chips fall."The new champion also paid tribute to his closest rivals, Kiwi Alastair Gair and Briton Ante Razmilovic. "Alastair sailed very well and so did Ante," said Smith. "They really made us work for it. These scores are pretty low for a Worlds. The only two Worlds I know of where the scores were much lower would be the one Childerley one in New Zealand, and the one Kenny Read won."Interestingly, the top two boats in this championship sailed with four-man crews, which was a decision Smith says he made after the last Worlds in San Francisco. Smith's crew included former world champion Dirk Kneulman and Kiwis Andrew Wills and Thomas Saunders. Alastair Gair and his crew were thrilled to have finished second. The young team, who have only been sailing Etchells for eighteen months, put together a very consistent series by applying basic sailing skills and not being over early. Although they were frequently in awe of the company in which they found themselves, the Kiwis did have some pedigree of their own-Carl Peters has an uncle called Russell Coutts.Also in the top ten was San Francisco's Craig Healy, who finished the last race in third place and took fifth in the series. Healy was happy with his finish after having a poor first half of the series.

DAY 7- KIWIS GRAB THE LEAD - 11/24/06The young Kiwi crew of Alastair Gair, David Ridley, Carl Peters, and Derek Scott have taken over the lead in the Audi Etchells World Championships with one race to go. They lead by a two point margin over Boston's Jud Smith, who had led the series since the start.Gair and crew finished second in today's seventh race off Fremantle, Western Australia. They followed Briton Ante Razmilovic around every mark of the course in a breeze that built from 15 knots at the start to 25 knots at the finish. Today's was Razmilovic's second bullet of the series, and keeps him in third place on the leaderboard.Despite the win, the British skipper is still six points behind Jud Smith, and eight behind Alastair Gair, and his chances of winning the series depend more on his rivals making mistakes than on his own success. "It's going to be more them not doing what they're supposed to do, than us doing what we're supposed to," said Razmilovic. "We'll just go sailing tomorrow and see what happens. I don't think we can do much more than that, can we?"Smith finished fourth today and recognizes that he has a big job ahead of him tomorrow, if he is to snatch back the lead and win his first-ever Etchells World Championship. San Francisco's Craig Healy dropped out of contention today by finishing 14th after having a poor start. He currently sits in sixth place. Talking about what he has to do tomorrow to win the championship, Alastair Gair said, "We've still got to get off the start line in good shape and get a clear lane. It's pretty much like any other race, we've just got to do all the basic stuff. You can get tangled up and in the heat of the moment people can make incorrect decisions and it can be costly. It's not super simple, but we're just going to keep doing what we've been doing for the last seven races."With more robust winds forecast for the final day, it could be a cliffhanger final race.

DAY 6- KIWIS CHALLENGE JUD SMITH - 11/23/06Jud Smith still leads the Audi Etchells World Championships being sailed off Fremantle, Western Australia, but he only holds the top place courtesy of a countback after the Kiwi team skippered by Alastair Gair scored a win in today's blustery sixth race.Smith, from Boston, managed a sixth place today in the strongest breeze of the series- 26 knots-conditions not ideally suited to him. Also putting in another strong performance was San Francisco's Craig Healy, who put another third place on the scoreboard and moved up to sixth in the series.Finishing second today, and now third on the leaderboard, was the British team of Ante Razmilovic, Jez Fanstone, and Stuart Flinn. They lead fourth-placed Mark Bradford of Australia by two points.Discussing the day's racing, Smith was happy with his upwind speed, but said he chose the wrong spinnaker, "We were up there at the weather mark, but we didn't have a good run. I picked the wrong kite, we went with too light air a kite, so that was a mistake. But we had the right jib, we were good upwind, with good speed, and we sailed a little conservatively."The New Zealanders, like Smith, are sailing four up. The Kiwi crew, which consists of former Olympic dinghy sailors from the Laser and 470 classes, is sailing its first Etchells worlds. "It unfolded quite well for us," commented their skipper, Alastair Gair. "We had a pretty good start and we managed to get around the top mark in pretty good shape, and it was really a matter of just picking away at the leaders."The lads battled against yesterday's winner, John Bertrand, up the final beat, and ultimately overtook him. After the finish the Kiwis learned that the America's Cup legend had been disqualified for starting prematurely.Craig Healy is also happy to have been up there at the finish. "We're very, very happy to finish in single digits owning to the fact that we had a really poor start," said Healy. "We were second row and we just hung on and hung on and hung on and somehow we were tenth or eleventh around the top mark. Then we gained on each leg, passing our final boat on the last beat. It was good for the guys, they worked as hard as anyone out there."

DAY 5-THE FLEET TIGHTENS UPThe fleet at the Audi Etchells World Championships off Fremantle, Western Australia, celebrated the start of the second half of the regatta by closing up the rankings dramatically. America's Cup legend John Bertrand scored his first win of the series, which moved him up from seventh to fifth on the leaderboard, While San Francisco skipper Craig Healy had his second good result, with a third place, which moves him up from 24th to 17th.However, a very happy Healy stands to make a big jump up the ladder when the discard kicks in, after tomorrow's sixth race, when he can drop an OCS from his scoreline.Sandwiched between Bertrand and Healy on the finishing line today was Australian skipper Cameron Miles, a former world champion, who also has Phil Smidmore as his mainsheet man, one of John Bertrand's Cup winning Australia II crew.Jud Smith, of Marblehead, Mass., is clinging to a much reduced lead in the series, with England's Ante Razmilovic closing to within four points of the top spot after backing up yesterday's win with a fourth today. With a solid 18 to 20 knots of seabreeze today, Smith struggled in the more robust conditions, finishing 21st after rounding the first mark in 18th place.Level, three points further back are New Zealander Alastair Gair, and Briton Andy Beadsworth, with the Kiwis finishing a consistent sixth, while Beadsworth, like Jud Smith had a bad one, finishing 19th, though anywhere in the top twenty in this fleet is a success. Whereas earlier in the series, after three races, there was 25 points between first and third, that differential takes in the first seven places now.Commenting on his win today, and the intensity of the competition, John Bertrand said, "it's really dicey coming off the line, the difference between breaking through the so-called bubble or being absorbed back into the fleet, is like the thickness of a hair, and we were just able to slowly develop our own lane. The racing is really, really close, very tight, and very sophisticated in terms of differentials in boatspeed."Craig Healy led around the first mark, but confessed to losing the lead to Bertrand on the first downwind leg because, "we got our wind messed up, and we didn't help ourselves." From then on he battled all the way with Cameron Miles describing the final leg saying, "we were chewing on him a little bit, and we thought, 'This is possible, we can get these guys.' We had a plan, carried it out, and came within six feet of getting them."For Healy this is his third time sailing in Fremantle, having been navigator with Tom Blackaller and Paul Cayard on USA in the '86/'87 America's Cup, and before that in a Laser worlds back in about '78.

DAY 4-CRAIG HEALY HAS HIS DAYWhile England's Ante Razmilovic won the fourth race of the Audi Etchells World Championships off Fremantle, Western Australia, one of the biggest smilers at the end of the day was Craig Healy, who scored a second place, which pulled him into the top half of the fleet, at the half way stage of the regatta.Still leading overall is Jud Smith, whose sixth place today increases his points advantage over Andy Beadsworth of the U.K. to nine points; the Briton had his first double digit result with a 10th place. Razmilovic's bullet lifts him into third place, and closes the gap between him and Beadsworth down to 12 points, with the quiet achievers, Alastair Gair and his Kiwi crew just one point further back.From fifth through to tenth, the game is tightening up, and is a fight amongst the Aussies, with the exception of twice former world champion Stuart Childerley from the Cowes fleet.Julian Plante from Sydney, with Mr North Sails Australia, Michael Coxon, on mainsheet, is the top Aussie in fifth place.Ante Razmilovic and his crew of Jez Fanstone and Stuart Finn climbed from fifth at the first mark, to take the lead on the second windward leg, and then controlled the race to take the gun. Talking about the venue the English skipper said, "wonderful place, and it's nice, it's subtle, it's not just hard, hard left, it's left of the course seems to be favoured a little bit more, but you've got to take some of the shifts, people come out of the middle right and middle left, there's a lot of quick guys here."The conditions fell into the familiar pattern of a first beat in the initial seabreeze of around 10 to 12 knots of breeze, which built throughout the race to a solid 20 knots by the finish.

DAY 3-JUD SMITH LOOKING STRONGThe words are on everyone's lips in Fremantle, "is this going to be Jud's year?" With two bullets and a second on the scoreboard after three races of the 2006 Audi Etchells World Championships, being sailed off Fremantle, Western Australia, Jud Smith is looking strong, but he's not counting his chickens yet.The seasoned campaigner from Marblehead has been in this situation before, and let the title slip through his fingers, so he's not making any predictions at this early stage of the regatta. "We were leading in San Francisco last year until the last couple of days, so we'll just go out there and keep trying," was his summary of the situation.Also putting in a powerful performance at this stage is English Olympian and former America's Cup helmsman Andy Beadsworth, who with fourth, third, and second places to his credit is just five points behind Smith. These two are the only boats without a double digit numbers in their scorelines, and Beadsworth is a full 20 points clear of third-placed Kiwi Alastair Gair.It is another Brit in fourth place, Ante Razmilovic is, like Beadsworth, a member of the strong Cowes, Isle of Wight, fleet which will host next year's world championships, and he is just one point behind the New Zealanders, and being ably assisted on mainsheet by former Volvo race skipper Jez Fanstone. The top Australian is past world champion Cameron Miles in fifth place, and one point further back in America's Cup legend John Bertrand, with more Australians filling the places through to tenth.Smith says that the light winds at the start of the three races sailed have helped him as these are more like the conditions he is used to, "I think what's influenced the races is, the first beats have been light," he explained, "and that has helped us because we're better in that lighter stuff. I feel like we set up for the first beat, then we're good enough to hang on for the rest of the race, we stay with our medium jib for the whole race, but we saw guys switching to their heavy jib, so we have a different range to our sails, which so far is helping us."It is interesting that in Monday's race Jud Smith managed to overtake Andy Beadsworth on the final beat when the wind was up in the 20 knot region, so maybe he is underestimating his heavy-air prowess.Behind Beadsworth and Smith on Monday were some new faces in the top ten, with Melbourne skippers Noel Drennan third and Mark Bulka sixth, while England's Stuart Childerly, who has won the title twice, chalked up an eighth place.The weather pattern is looking settled for the rest of the week, with the famous Fremantle Doctor expected everyday. For Jud Smith it could be critical how early in his rounds he visits Coburn Sound, where the races are being sailed. Will he wait until the quiet American has established his lead before building to his full strength?

DAY 2-MARBLEHEAD'S SMITH CONSOLIDATESA well-sailed second place by Jud Smith and his crew keeps them at the top of the leaderboard after the second day of the Audi Etchells World Championships off Fremantle, Western Australia. It was ex-patriot New Zealander Dave Clark from Australia's Pittwater fleet who took the gun, after grabbing the lead on the first downwind leg."We rounded second at the first mark behind the English guys," Clark explained, "it was just about finding pressure and lanes on the run, and we did a good job of that, and managed to extend, once we got clean air it was actually reasonably easy. It was a perfect breeze, oscillating, going back and forth and we stayed in phase."Jud Smith and his crew of Dirk Kneulman, and New Zealanders Thomas Saunders and Andrew Wills now hold a handy points lead with first and second places ahead of England's Andy Beadsworth who has third and fourth places on the scoreboard. Chris Busch from California is putting in a very consistent performance, with two seventh places, which puts him up in third place overall, just ahead of Briton Ante Razmilovic who has a pair of ninth places. Another American in the top ten today was Connecticut's Joseph Bainton, who improved on his first race 42nd, to chalk up an eighth place today.As Jud Smith predicted yesterday, "it'll be an up and down series," and a number of "big names" recovered from a bad first day, to post top ten results including Australians Rob Brown and Julian Plante, third and fifth, respectively. Describing the conditions Dave Clark said, "it was a bit right of seabreeze, so the pressure never really built, so it was interesting, you're not feeling the same sort of weight or pressure. Some of the guys were carrying a down range headsail, and they were just powered up and going."Jud's been just splendid to date, and to be able to sail away from him on the last couple of legs was pretty special, that was kind of a vintage moment for us." Smith tussled all the way around the track with local skipper Mike Manford, beating him across the line by half a length, only to find the Australian had been disqualified for a premature start.

DAY 1-JUD SMITH SHOWS HIS INTENSIONSAmerican skipper Jud Smith has made his presence felt in Fremantle, Western Australia, by winning the first race of the Audi Etchells World Championships. But the man who has finished second so often is far too experienced to make anything of just one win at this early stage of the regatta."It'll be an up and down series," he said after the hard fought race, "the competition is so good, there are 30 boats that can be there in the top three." On a day that produced picture book conditions of bright sunshine and 15 to 18 knots of Fremantle Doctor seabreeze, the top three boats swapped the lead throughout the race.Jud Smith seemed to have the edge up wind, while New Zealand's Alastair Gair had slightly better pace downwind, and Briton Andy Beadsworth was always there making a nuisance of himself. The lead was never safe, and Smith knows he's got a big job on his hands if he's to claim this title.At the finish it was Smith from Gair with Beadsworth third, and the first Australian, Cameron Miles - a former world champion - fourth.Two other Americans made it into the top ten, with Chris Busch taking seventh and Craig Healy eighth. Britain also had another top ten finisher with Ante Razmilovic of the Cowes fleet ninth, while America's Cup legend John Bertrand finished tenth.A long postponement while the Australian navy passed through the course area turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the seabreeze was late arriving, but when the conditions settled it was just like the brochures say, a steady south westerly that built to about 18 knots.Reinforcing Jud Smith's proclamation that it will be an up and down series, there were plenty of big names who started with a down. Skip Lissiman, who won last week's Australian nationals, scored a 24th. England's Stuart Childerley was 27th, and Rob Brown from Sydney crept home in 33rd place.It is interesting to note that the first two boats in this race were sailing four up, rather than the more usual three up. Smith said they'd been planning this since the last worlds, and that it was definitely good upwind, though it made the boat feel crowded downwind.