John Bertrand remains Etchells king in Australia

Published on January 16th, 2015

Adelaide, Australia (January 16, 2015) – With one final race for the 34 teams at the Musto 2015 Etchells Australian Championship, the stars aligned for the eighth time for John ‘JB’ Bertrand AM, Billy Browne, and Jake Newman to lead Triad to triumph.

When you watch Triad sail in a regatta, irrespective of who is actually on board with JB, it is first and foremost a true pleasure and also an exercise in knowledge building. Super quiet, terrific skills and almost with a sixth sense about it all, too. The other thing you get, is that it is a lot like a Great White, looming and applying scoreboard pressure all the time, even though they may not be in the top five right there and then.

Look out, however, for JB always leads a relentless march forward and on the last day; there is even a strike at the prey, which is always the trophy on offer. Today’s win of the last race of the series is a case in point – it was the only time they had done it all regatta.

Afterwards, JB commented, “We are delighted. Never over until the large lady does opera, and that is sport. It was a light to medium wind, with flat water, which means anything can happen in Etchells. There were pressure lines everywhere across the track and we hooked into them and got to top mark first with some clear space and held it from there.”

“We were just following Andrew ‘Dog’ Palfrey’s email to get our transit (to the start line) sorted and get away from the line with clean air and good pace! Grant Simmer (fellow Australia II crewmember and regular Triad sailor) has called as well to get an update and was really happy for us.”

“It is terrific for me to get back into competition, as I have been immersed with the swimmers of late (as the head of Swimming Australia), so this recalibrates myself to re-visit the stresses our elite athletes go through – this is of great benefit to me with my communications with the swimmers as we gun in towards Rio, 2016.”

Talking of Olympics, you wonder how it is different for JB now, as compared with Munich and Montreal. “I am much more rounded and have a global overview of competition, as compared to ‘72. Nothing existed at that time, other than an Olympic medal. I can see so much more now and be philosophic about it. As a result, I do not put myself under the same pressure, albeit that I am not at the same standard as I was back then.”

JB finished by saying, “This class is very rich with quality people – the best One Design racing in the country. Seeing young people like Matt Chew and our great Olympian, Malcolm Page come in is just terrific. To win, you do need the help of others. Jake Newman is very talented and underrated. He is good at seeing wind on water and possesses a wonderful feel for boat speed. He’s a younger version of Tom Slingsby.”

“Billy Browne and I go back to the 1992 Etchells World Championship. We have sailed a lot together. He’s super competitive, a former AFL player for St Kilda and was prancing around at 0630hrs this morning ready to go racing! He called today the final quarter (a reference to Australian football, which is played in four quarters instead of two halves). Triad’s next outing will be Geelong in March for the Victorian title and it will be me with Billy and Jake.”

Stewart Ross, the Principal Race Officer for the event, was both delighted and exhausted as he came off the water. Ross commented, “An interesting day. We ended up getting just the one race in. We were out on water just before 1200hrs and we tried to start at 1445hrs, but that was not successful with the breeze all over the place. We then went out 0.5nm further to sea to look for breeze and ultimately got away at 1533hrs, just 27 minutes before cut off.”

“We did not have to do any course changes to our 1.2nm track on an axis of 190˚ and saw 8-12 knots during the race, with some real breeze lines coming down the track. It was Course #2, so the two, full windward/leeward returns were completed. There was a major collision at the leeward end after the first run that involved four boats. Seems like everyone took care of their required penalty turns.”

Ross finished with, “A lot of waiting, so a bit frustrating, but never got as high as the models suggested, so lucky to get the final race in at all and happy for it. Many thanks to the 20 volunteers that made it all possible, they all worked well and chipped in tremendously to get the job the done. The competitors have been good and really supportive of what we have been up to, so it has been a great experience.”

Overnight leader and reigning Queensland State Champions, GenXY, which is Matt Chew, Ash Deeks, Brian Donovan and Bill Cuneo were keen to get their first national title. Chew said, “Did not win unfortunately. We were leading up the first beat and thought we had them all covered. However a huge left hand shift was there for The Hole Way and Triad, who got there first and we were out of touch thereafter. We tried a few things on the run, but there was no joy.”

“We are happy with third overall and really still do have the hunger – we’ll be back!!!” Gen XY won’t get much downtime back at their real jobs before attending the NSW State Championships in early February.

Now Athena (AUS 1258) is Mark Roberts, Chad Elsegood and Matthew Johnston. They have an interesting programme in place and get the rising star prize, as well. Athena finished in 19th place. Roberts commented, “My crew and I all have young kids, so we do not get to sail too much. We’ve been in Etchells for two years and our plan for this championship was to be the best South Australian boat and finish in the top 20. We also wanted to have one top ten result and we ended up with a tenth and ninth place (R4 and 5 respectively), so that is really great.”

“This was a top fleet and I was sailing against my childhood idol (JB) and in the two races where we had top ten, we were right there with him and only a few places behind –a fantastic experience. JB drew me to Etchells and when you look around, all this country’s best still gravitate to this magnificent class. Best thing about it is all the World Champions, offshore legends and Olympic and America’s Cup heroes are all here.”

Roberts said, “I also sail OK Dinghies and Chad and Matt play a lot in the Sharpies. I have done a couple of Hobarts with my best being an eighth place in Line Honours on DHL, which was the winning VO60, Illbruck. Richie Allanson (from North Sails) gave us a lot of help with our rig set up to be prepared for changing gears in the various breezes. The Etchells share the good oil, which does not happen so well in the OKs and Finn.”

“We won the 2013/14 SA Etchells State Championship, which is all leading into the Worlds at Brisbane, 2018. This is our first step on those preparations, so we’ll be on the Australian circuit to get ourselves set for that. Adelaide Fleet boats, Stretch and Mystery Taxi are also on the same programme. We are doing the Sportboats at Geelong next and then in March we are back to Geelong for the Etchells Victorian title and then in Winter we will be at Mooloolaba. Many, many thanks to Lauren, Jorga and Bec (wives to Mark, Chad and Matt respectively) for allowing us to do all this wonderful sailing!”

The Musto 2015 Etchells Australian Championship was sailed on the waters of the Gulf of St Vincent adjacent to Adelaide. The host was the Royal South Australian Yacht Squadron (RSAYS), which is also home to the Adelaide Etchells Fleet. The Captain of which is Andrew Waterman, who said, “Is that a championship or is that a championship. Had to go to Appendix A to sort out the count back. You had to be there all the way through to be in the calculations at the end. No one left early – love that! We are all so happy that all the winners are here to accept their trophies and just delighted for that on behalf of the club and especially our sponsor, Musto.”

So unlike Connor McLeod, immortality does not await John Bertrand, Billy Browne and Jake Newman. However, they do get a whole year to relish their achievement and importantly, they also have a place in the history books allocated to them. Well done. As for JB, well he is already a living legend, so no matter what happens to the flesh, time eternal will remember his achievements.

Also, a hearty ‘nice one’ needs to be said to all the participants, the volunteers, the RSAYS, Race Management and the organising committee. Seems smiles all ‘round was in the SIs – so perhaps it should be the new standard clause for all classes.

AUS class websiteNationals websiteComplete results

Report and photos by John Curnow.

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