Etchells Nationals: The master called it fabulous racing

Published on November 12th, 2013

(November 12, 2013) – The Australian Etchells class National Championship started today in shifty, soft conditions, on the offshore waters of Queensland’s Gold Coast.

The six-time national champion, world champion, Olympian and America’s cup helmsman, John Bertrand, called today’s racing fabulous; not just once, but several times.

Out on the course area with the Southport Yacht Club volunteer team setting up the course area, the 30-boat fleet had to wait an anxious half hour before the Principal Race Officer, Kevin Wilson, was able to set a fair course. The breeze swung 030 to 340 and back again while the overcast skies provided some unwelcome rain.

Finally race one was off the line with only two boats called OCS. Queensland young guns Gen XY (Matthew Chew) and Victorian’s Walk on Water (Glenn Norton) were the guilty parties. Chew returned to restart while Norton was recorded with an OCS.

The Triad team of John Bertrand, Grant Simmer and Andrew Palfrey lead around the course until the last beat. “The fleet split, then the right shift paid off as it turns out. It was difficult in terms of which way to go to be able to cover the fleet. The bottom line, with the top dozen boats, you could have tied a string between them. It was fantastic racing,” Bertrand said.

The race winner was 2011/12 National Champion and Sydney entry, Fifteen, helmed by David Clark and crewed by Andrew Smith and Alan Smith. “At the last mark we were one or two lengths behind (Bertrand). Then we came around and he went left and we thought we saw some breeze offshore a little further, so we separated from the guys. We got into a nice little right hander and carried that through.

“At the finish it was really close. We engaged in a bit of a match race for most of the run, but then on the last third, the last quarter of the run we caught a couple of waves which gave us a little bit of breathing space,” Clark said.

Race two of the day was started in slightly stronger breeze; possibly the strongest the fleet will see this week. With a settled north-easterly at 12 to 13 knots and a two-metre swell, the fleet had a clean start for Course 1.

Three World Champions were the podium place getters in this race. Iris III (Peter McNeill), The Hole Way (Cameron Miles) and Triad (Bertrand) were just ahead of future world champions Fifteen (David Clark) and Gen XY (Mathew Chew). Clark described this race vividly when he said “you could have thrown a blanket over five or six of us up the last half of the work. Any one of us could have won that race.

“That part of the work, the left side of the track, got strong and Cameron (Miles) got around a bunch of us and Polly (Peter McNeill) held on nicely. We are really happy with our fourth place as we had a terrible start. We couldn’t be happier to recover from where we started,” Clark said.

Bertrand appeared pleased when told of his third placing. He confirmed the racing was so close that he wasn’t able to call the result on the water. “I think we came from sixth to third on the final beat. We just shot the line.”

After two races, the overall is leader is David Clark on equal five points with John Bertrand. In third place is Peter McNeill on seven points, equal with Cameron Miles.

In fifth place overall, Chew described his day as “we were last off the line in race one after being recalled and a poor start race two had us on the comeback all day.”

The sailors are expecting the next three days to be soft with a possible pick up in the breeze later on the final day which is Saturday.

Day two of the National Championship starts on Wednesday at about 1100 hours.

For full results, go

For more event information, go

Tracey Johnstone reporting

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