North Sails LOFT NEWS


Interview with Noel Drennan on Etchells Racing

Noel Drennan with Billy Merrington, and Lewis Brake during the 2019 Etchells Australian Championship at RQYS © John Curnow

The overall concept for conducting the North Sails Etchells Webinar, was to educate the fleet on the entire sail and mast package that Iain Murray (Havoc) and Graeme Taylor (Magpie) have been using, and to show it’s not just about the in hauling of the jibs. We have reviewed the questions received during and after the webinar that you can watch again, and have prepared these answers specifically to match them. Article republished from Sail-World / Etchells Australia, courtesy of John Curnow.

Do I have to change my current mast and sails combination to the same as Iain Murray and GT?

NO is the answer. The standard mast set up, (Sparcraft/Smidmore/Selden) with spreaders straight out, and LM series Jibs, is still very competitive. At the Australian Championship, both Mark Roberts and Kirwan Robb demonstrated this superbly, and both also won individual races over that very strong fleet, placing 4th and 6th overall, respectively.

The important thing is to know your settings, regardless of the sails/mast combination, which is only solved by sailing and racing.

Note that at the nationals, where Graeme Taylor was first, Iain in second, and then John Bertrand in third place, probably would have had the same result if they were all using the standard LM series Jibs without inhauling.

Should I alter my Etchells to in-haul?

I do believe it’s worth fitting an in hauling system, and it does not have to be the complete system change matching Iain and GT, but there is value in at least having the ability to in haul to the cuddy cabin edge or just inside.

Do I have to move my shrouds for different conditions?

There is value in moving the shrouds on the chainplates for different conditions. If you have a standard spreader set up mast, for example a Smidmore mast, I would only move the shrouds in top and bottom of the wind ranges, and only by one hole. That is to say that the Cap shroud should be in the front hole under 8 knots, and then hole position three over 18 knots, and for rest of the time in the standard hole #2. If in doubt about the possible sailing conditions, I would leave the shrouds in the standard #2 and #4 slots.

It is important to remember that with the standard Smidmore mast, the spreader configuration is forward of straight out from the side of the mast, so quite different to Iain’s and GT’s masts.

Should I try the MAL jib without the full in-haul jib sheeting system?

This will work, but you’ll probably get even better results by in hauling to at least to the cuddy cabin, since you would be setting up with a slightly straighter forestay than a LM2L, or GM style jib, and the leech would be very open, or twisted leech, without any form of inhauling in place.

Please have a look at Billy Merrington’s videos of how he economically retrofitted his Etchells to have an inhauling system, using many parts from his original set up.


Part 1      Part 2


Can I compete with Iain and GT in my standard set up Etchells?

The easy answer is yes, but can you then answer the following: Is your hull finish the same standard as Iain’s? Are you starting as well as GT and Iain? Are your sails in as good condition? Am I going the right way consistently, and hiking hard, with solid crew work?

The Etchells class in Australia is the top end of one design racing, and there is a reason guys like JB and Iain Murray have raced the boat for 30 years. The impressive thing is they are both as keen to improve today as they were when starting in the Etchells class.

Let’s look at Iain and his crew:

Iain has been at the forefront of Australian sailing forever, from the 18s to America’s Cup, and the Star at the Olympics, etc.

Richie Allanson has an incredible, long time and broad base of experience in racing and sailmaking, and living Etchells everyday.

Then you have Col Beashel, a six time Olympian, three time Etchells World Champion and winner of a small regatta in Newport in 1983.

Graeme Taylor’s Magpie team have many regatta wins over the last years, and the scary thing is that GT is the only one on Magpie that has not won an Etchells Worlds, with both James and Tom previous Etchells World Champions!

That is all pretty impressive, and yes, hard to compete with, but that’s why we race Etchells. The best thing about Etchells you can go to any fleet club race in Australia, and you will have to sail well, start well, and go the right way if you want to win. It is not easy.

The zoom format has opened up a new world for sailor education, and is definitely going to be something used in the future. The Melbourne Etchells fleet and Adrian Finglas have been using zoom for coaching sessions during our COVID-19 downtime, which is just awesome, and a great way to educate the fleet. Zoom debriefs, for example a few days after the regatta has finished, will be an incredible tool for developing your Etchells sailing.

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