TWO ETCHELLS STATES IN A ROW FOR NORTH SAILS FIRST TRACKS
Peter Merrington and his team claim victory in the fiercely competitive NSW Etchells fleet
📸 Dickson Leung
Long-time North Sails customer Peter ‘Billy’ Merrington, with his crew of Ian McKillop and Grant Simmer, claimed a second NSW State Championship in a row last weekend, with a convincing win in Gosford. With usual team member Steve ‘Mothy’ Jarvin unavailable for this regatta, Australian Sailing icon Grant Simmer provided some “pearls of wisdom” to the experienced race team. “Ian and I have sailed together for at least nine years as a partnership across three or four different Etchells now, so we know each other pretty well,” said Billy. “I’ve always wanted to sail with Grant Simmer, and we sailed with him for the Goblets and a couple of training sessions. He got us thinking about a few little changes we needed to make to our setup, and obviously on the race track he’s very smart.” “The races were really tight, and it was a great quality fleet with the Mould 11 hulls coming back in and expanding the fleet again. It was good tight racing on a tough race course. The first day was really light and shifty. We had two good races that day and then a third race which was a 13, which came from a bad start and we got bounced around the whole race, it pretty much happened to everyone at some point of the weekend I think.” “The second day was more of a steady Nor’easter, and we sailed really well that day, with great speed and had good starts, and the team did a really great job, so it was an awesome day and couldn’t get much better than that!”Billy and his team have used North Sails since joining up with Ian in the Etchells fleet in 2014, using the North Sails tuning guide and modifying it slightly based on the feeling out there each day.
📸 Gosford Sailing Club
“Over the years we’ve developed a few little tweaks to our rake setting and our sidestay settings which we feel most comfortable with, but in general it’s pretty much the standard sails and setup. We’re using the PC-FM Radial Head mainsail, which is pretty much the standard across the Australian fleet now. We use the MAL Jib and GT Jib for up-range, and the standard VMG Spinnaker and the Full Radial Spinnaker North Sails Australia designed shutes. We probably use the VMG more up-range than most other teams - we tend to use the VMG shute up to 12-13 knots, whereas other people probably bring it in at about 10 or 11 knots of wind,” Billy commented.As one of the most consistent competitors in the Australian Etchells fleet, First Tracks attributes their successful performances to their understanding of their equipment setup and on-water preparation as a team. “I think we just try to make sure we keep training enough to keep our skill level and speed up. We always try to make sure we get a number of training sessions between each event to keep ourselves tuned in and having a good consistent crew. The other thing is, because we’ve sailed together for so long, it’s a bit like getting back on a bike. I think one of the keys is having a good consistent crew and just getting on the water.”“Ian and I are extremely thankful to Mothy, this is his boat we get to race and his support of the Etchells class that gives us the opportunity to sail on a weekly basis. He’s such a great supporter of the class.”With Mothy rejoining his team, First Tracks have their eyes firmly set on the future. “We’ve got a bunch of regattas in the middle of the year, so we’ll do the Midwinters in Brisbane, and a regatta in the Gold Coast we’re seriously considering doing as well. We’re disappointed to not be going to the upcoming world championships in Miami in a couple of weeks, that’s for sure, but the next ones are a serious goal for us being in Perth next year.”