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Etchells: Bruce Nelson Reports
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Conner Gets Narrow Win Over Curtis in NZ Championship

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (Mar. 11, 1997) — Dennis Conner defeated Dave Curtis by a scant point to win the New Zealand Etchells Class Championship last weekend.

Colin Beashel was a close third, followed by fellow Aussies Cameron Miles, Peter Dore and Nick Rogers. Yours truly finished seventh, followed by top Kiwis Earle Williams and Murray Ross. With 39 boats on a rather short starting line, there was some tight racing!

New Zealand Etchells Class President Doug Reid did a fantastic job in organizing the event and drawing in some talent from the U.S. and Australia to boost the fleet.

The first race was a very light and fluky affair, won by Leslie Egnot and her four-women crew in a 20-year-old boat. They worked the right side of the course to advantage. Many of the pre-race favorites were quite deep, although Conner and Curtis managed to finish third and fourth, and the second race was postponed to the next day.

Day 2 featured three races in shifty east winds between 8 and 14 knots. The Australians, led by Beashel, found the left side advantageous and swept the top spots in Race 2, while Egnot performed one-too-few 720 penalty turns for a disqualification at the hands of Conner.

Race 3 saw the team of Nelson-Knowles-Brooke finally break cleanly from the starting gate to win a duel with Curtis up the left side and lead wire-to-wire for a much-needed win, while Conner overtook Curtis for second — a 1-2-3 sweep for the good ol' USA.

Race 4, starting late in the day, saw the advantage swing to the right — current, I think — where the Aussies again took advantage, led by Cameron Miles this time.

So, heading into the final day, consistency had Curtis and Conner a point apart, well in front of the pack. While the forecast called for light and variable, an early rain shower was followed by brisk 15- to 22-knot winds from the SW and the action was back on!

Beashel revelled in the fresh breeze to win both races, which saw the top boats from Oz generally dominate. Conner, with former adversary Chris Dickson as crew, managed a fifth and a ninth to hang on to win by one point over Curtis, who stumbled out of the top ten in race 5. Beashel's double bullets brought him within a point or two of the leaders for third (my score sheet got all wet and disintegrated, so I'm doing this from memory, but I think it's close to right.)

Meanwhile, Team Nelson was continuing to stage exciting comebacks from horrendous starts, which included 720s on occasion, to fittingly nail down seventh place with a pair of sevens on the last day.

All in all, it was a great regatta and a well-deserved congratulations goes out to Doug Reid and everyone at Pine Harbour for bring world-class Etchells racing to New Zealand. The people at Pine Harbour were as enthusiastic and welcoming as can be — it's a great place to go race.

— Bruce Nelson
Etchells USA 986

Nelson is the principal designer for AmericaOne.


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