Musto Etchells Australasian Championship - Hot fleet in Mooloolaba

Last weekend there was Jessica Watson and an eighty boat Sail Mooloolaba fleet, sailing the waters off Mooloolaba, on Queensland's beautiful Sunshine Coast.

This weekend, the June Long weekend, the on-water action hots up again as a fleet of more than 50 Etchells One Design boats will line up this Friday in the ocean off Mooloolaba Beach for the three day Musto 2010 Etchells Australasian Championship.

It is the 14th year in a row this landmark event has been sailed at Mooloolaba.

Amongst this year's highly competitive fleet will be Melbourne's John Savage, a dual Etchells World Champion, who won in 1979 (Toronto) and 1988 (Newport, Australia) and Peter McNeill, who won the Etchells Worlds on these very waters back in 2004.

The highly regarded Kiwi skipper Alastair Gair, five times Australian Etchells Champion John Bertrand, who has done a few other things in sailing and Hong Kong Champion Mark Thornburrow, will all be looking for their first ever Mooloolaba win.

North American 2008 Champion Mark Johnston, who finished in second place in the 2009 Winters, is raising the game with Nik Burfoot and Australian Sailing Team High Performance Director Peter Conde onboard.

Melbourne's Chris Hampton has local Mooloolaba knowledge with 2009 World Champion tactician Bucky Smith joining his crew.

In good form is Sydney's top gun David Clarke, the current NSW State Champion.

And the group widens as more big boat skippers take up the 'Winters Challenge'. Grand Prix Champion and Living Doll owner Michael Hiatt has just driven into the Boat Park in Mooloolaba with Baby Doll and very high profile triple Sydney to Hobart winner Mark Richards, who is more often seen at helm of Wild Oats XI, is on his way up the coastal highway.

The list goes on and so the result is as wide open as any major sailing event might be.

Australian Etchells Class Association President Noel Paterson commented 'It's absolutely amazing. You can't pick a reason why a lot of the good guys keep on turning up and have come here consistently. There is a long list of at least 20 hot shots every year, and nobody has won the event twice.'

Why do they keep coming back?

The answer is great sailing, great venue and great fun!

As New Zealand sailor Alastair Gair says 'All year we look forward to the Winter (now Australasian) Championship. We are really keen to win it. Everyone is so nice here and it is just a great regatta every year; we just love it. Mooloolaba Wharf is a good little location and it really is a cool event.'