A devastating fire that swept through industrial units in Cowes on the Isle of Wight destroying 17 Etchells keelboats has not dampened the spirits of the event organisers. Cowes Etchells fleet captain, David Franks, has reported that the class has rallied together and, as a result, the Etchells World Championship will be unaffected and an impressive turn out of world-class sailors from across the globe is expected to participate.
David told us that, despite losing half the fleet, “There’s been a real pulling together throughout the world, and I have now got equivalent replacements for each of the active sailors in the fleet who lost their boats. We have a strong plan for each and every owner, to the point where I don’t expect anybody to lose a race, let alone a regatta. It’s become a bump in the road, and not a big dip.”
Many teams have been confirming their entry in support of the class, including Steve Benjamin. The former Olympic medallist, current US Sailing’s Rolex Yachtsman of the Year and Etchells North American Champion said, “In America we felt the shock to the Class the fire caused, but it’s incredibly positive that the boats are being replaced so quickly and the fleet will be stronger than ever with all the new builds coming. I know of four American teams coming for certain and we are expecting about ten or more, any of which are certainly capable of winning the World Championships.”
At least 65 boats are expected with 40 boats from overseas. Racers at the World Championship will include the current world champion, Skip Dieball and also Jon McClean. Eight previous Etchells World Champions are also expected including; John Bertrand, Andy Beadsworth, Jud Smith, Dirk Kneulman and Andrew Palfrey, Bill Hardesty and Marvin Bechmann. Notable sailors that will also be competing include two outstanding female helms; Jeanne-Claude Strong, current Etchells Australasia Champion and Shannon Bush, top female helm in America. Past Dragon World Champion, Olympic and Whitbread Round the World sailor, Lawrie Smith has confirmed his participation, as have Olympic medallist, Ossie Stewart and Eddie Warden Owen, Chief Executive of Royal Ocean Racing Club and former top ranked sailing match racing champion.
The 2016 Etchells World Championship, hosted by the Royal London Yacht Club, will be held in Cowes from 5th-12th September 2016.
For more information visit: 2016.etchellsworlds.org