13/03/2007 - 22:00

Business class: Etchells skippers a class apart

13/03/2007 - 22:00

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The Perth businessmen who race Etchells yachts can’t outdo each other by buying bigger boats. Instead, the strict rules imposed on the yacht’s dimensions by the Etchells racing body means the skippers compete on skill alone.

Business class: Etchells skippers a class apart

The Perth businessmen who race Etchells yachts can’t outdo each other by buying bigger boats. Instead, the strict rules imposed on the yacht’s dimensions by the Etchells racing body means the skippers compete on skill alone.

There are 40 registered Etchells teams in Western Australia, with just 17 of them qualifying at a state level to compete across the globe.

Each team consists of a skipper and two crew members.

Patersons Securities executive chairman Michael Manford, Hartleys stockbroker Dirk Vanderstruyf, and Ernst & Young tax partner Martin Webster all skipper Etchells yachts.

So does former Patersons partner Rob Bird, who now runs safety products business Paramount Safety Products.

Mr Bird has won six state championships and came second to four-time America’s Cup winner Dennis Conner at the world championship in 1999.

“Etchells is one of the most competitive classes in the world because the yachts are identical and it comes down to skill. There are also controls on pricing so they are fairly reasonable, a yacht costs about $65,000,” Mr Bird said.

Mr Manford started sailing when he was eight years old, rising through the ranks to eventually skipper an Etchells crew. He has won four state championships, an Australian championship and came fifth out of 90 yachts at the world championships in New Zealand in 2002. His team won two of the races at the 2002 event.

“There’s nothing quite like looking back and seeing 89 boats behind you,” Mr Manford said.

It’s a demanding discipline that requires weekly practice.

Each of the regattas is a week-long event made up of daily or sometimes twice-daily races of roughly three hours.

Mr Vanderstruyf has been sailing Etchells for the past 15 years.

He’s competing in the national race in Queensland in June and considering competing in the 2008 world championship in Chicago.

“We are out training most weekends between October and April,” Mr Vanderstruyf said.

His team, which includes Simon Sutherland and Reid Fleming, came fourth at the world championships held in Perth in November.

“It’s very time consuming and it is difficult when you have a young family but the great thing about yacht racing as sport is that there’s plenty of water you can compete on and you can sail all around the world,” Mr Vanderstruyf said.

Mr Vanderstruyf has won two Australian championships, one with America’s Cup veteran Gordon Lucas.

Australia II skipper John Bertrand also races in the Etchells competition.

Mr Manford, who also competed for a spot on the national soling team for the Atlanta Olympics, said yacht racing helped him manage his business better, despite its demands.

“You have to put in a lot of time and effort in the lead up to a championship,” Mr Manford said.

“There’s a lot of strategy involved in sailing and winning the yacht race. To win in a yacht race you need to have all of the right equipment, have the right people on board, have an understanding of the conditions that you are sailing in and you need to know what those conditions are long term, daily and intra daily.

“All the crew members need to be working well together and they have to understand the consequences their actions have on other people on the team.

“You have to have all that and then do the manoeuvres. That all has to come automatically. It has to work perfectly and it has to be second nature.

“Once you do that you’ll be in the top 5 per cent, but to win you need to have your eyes open and navigate. I think that’s what you want to do in business; you want it all working perfectly so everything works well day-to-day and you can look outside the business and take advantage of the conditions in front of you.”

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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