World Champions bringing boat they sail in heaven to Geelong

Regatta winners, John Bertrand, Tom Slingsby & Andrew Palfrey on Triad - Etchells Lake Macquarie Spring Regatta 2009
Rex Gorell Prestige Etchells Australian Championship 9-15th January 2011.

While a lot of sailing events like the Sydney to Hobart or our Geelong Week have fleets of all sizes and shapes and speeds, the very tightest racing on the world sailing scene is done in One Design boats - fleets of identical boats, all of the same speed - and in those races the first boat across the finish line wins.


Worldwide there is recognition that the One Design Etchells class is amongst the most competitive there is. The talent pool amongst the three or four person Etchells fleets has traditionally been extremely high and the quality of sailors participating is particularly high in Australia, considered by many to be the top Etchells sailing nation worldwide.

World Sailing Champions, America’s Cup winners, Olympians and now Sydney Hobart winners will be amongst the skippers and crews heading for Geelong this week, as a fleet of more than fifty five one design Etchells are expected to contest the Rex Gorell Prestige Etchells Australian Championship. The event will be sailed from the Royal Geelong Yacht Club, Victoria from January 9th to 15th 2011.

While AFL may or may not be the football they play in heaven, (there are strong rumours coming from New Zealand and South Africa that is Rugby) there is no doubt the Etchells is the heavenly boat of choice. You only have to look at the big name sailors the Etchells Class attracts.

The 2010 Etchells World Champion will be defending his Australian title on Corio Bay next week. He is none other than Australia’s most famous sailor, John Bertrand, the skipper of the 1983 America’s Cup winner Australia II. John will be introducing a member from his America’s Cup 1983 team to his Etchells Dream Team for this championship, Australia II Navigator, the successful America’s Cup winning Alinghi Team Managing Director and British America’s Cup Challenge Team Origin CEO, Grant Simmer.

The third member of Bertrand’s Dream Team is currnetly in the air flying in from Europe. Olympian Andrew ‘Dog’ Palfrey (the bow) is one of the top sailing coaches in the world. Doggie crewed aboard the 1999 Etchells World Champion boat and followed his 2010 Etchells Worlds win with another world championship just one week later, the 2010 505 Worlds title.

Bertrand has been involved in sailing in Geelong for almost a decade as Patron of what was Skandia Geelong Week, now Audi Victoria Week.

John commented ‘I am really looking forward to sailing in Geelong. Etchells sailing has become particularly enjoyable over the last few seasons for me. This really started before the Worlds in Melbourne when I decided to give it a good whack with a top line crew and since then Andrew and I have sailed with Ben Ainslie the triple Olympic Gold medallist and we won the 2010 World Championship with ISAF sailor of the Year, triple Laser World Champion Tom Slingsby from NSW.

‘Now I am looking forward to sailing again with Grant in the Rex Gorell Prestige Etchells Australian Championship.

'We sailed in a Pre-titles regatta here just three weeks ago. Sailing with guys like Andrew and Grant in a tight team can be very complete, in its own total universe where so little needs to be said to get things done.

‘Before my recent Etchells campaigns, the last time I had that feeling was actually with Australia II when we really hit our peak. The amount of noise almost evaporated to zero even when the pressure was extreme - that is just an incredible environment to be racing in.’

Bertrand and his crew will be up against some stiff competition, which will include Damien King and Simon Cunnington’s Barry, second at the 2009 Worlds in Melbourne and third at the 2010 Worlds. Cunnington is on a roll at the moment, he’s just come back from celebrating victory aboard the Sydney to Hobart winner Secret Men’s Business 3.5.

Local Geelong skipper Brendan Garner (The Moe Syslak Experience) and his crew has been together for three years and have won the Royal Club Yacht Club championship for the past two years; they will be leading a strong six boat Geelong fleet this weekend.

Garner too has just come back from a very successful Sydney to Hobart race aboard the British boat Jazz, which was second in the Tattersall’s Cup behind Secret Mens Business, won Division 0 and ORCi handicap overall.

Brendan commented ‘Looking forward to sailing on Corio Bay after doing it tough in Bass Strait, but the competition will be just as tough or even tougher next week.’

Amongst the young guns coming to this regatta is Secret Mens Business mastman Caillin Howard, who was a Man Overboard in the middle of Bass Strait, when a green wave broke over the bow during a sail change. While Howard was still tethered to the boat, bouncing alongside while it was doing 20 knots, it took five of his team mates to return him to the safety of the deck.

After crewing successfully with Chris Pratt in the past two Etchells nationals and world titles, Caillin brings is bringing his own boat to the Nationals with a young team of four from the mentor program of the Royal South Australian Yacht Squadron to gain more large fleet racing experience and enjoy the waters of Geelong and the quality racing of the Australian Etchells fleet.

For more information go to http://www.rgyc.com.au/etchells-australian-championships