The Etchells class notoriously attracts a high calibre fleet, whether it’s a national championship or a club race. There is something very special about the boats which have survived the gauntlet of 40 years of other boats choices, economic challenges and cultural changes.
Men at Work, John Bertrand, Andrew Grant Simmer and Andrew Palfrey competing in last year’s Etchells National Championship in West Australia
The six-time National class champion, John Bertrand, is a sailor who epitomises the strength of the class and its attraction.
Bertrand is one of the busiest people around, with commitments now extending beyond his sailing world and into the presidency of Swimming Australia. Yet, without hesitation, he will make the time to compete at next month’s Etchells Class National Championship.
'I continue to sail the class because of it’s the supreme competition in Australia and it’s still one of the best competitions in the world. I just love sailing at the very top level whenever I can even though they are an old design and they don’t go up upwind at 35 knots like we have seen on San Francisco Bay.
'I was out last Saturday racing with a few of my mates in Melbourne in a 15 to 20 knot north-easter and it was just beautiful racing. Those boats are quite a dream to race,' Bertrand said.
Bertrand will be up against an expected fleet of 50 boats in the national championship being conducted by Southport Yacht Club from the 11th to 16th November 2013.
Joining him on the course will be a raft of sailors who have excelled in sailing outside of the Etchells class yet return to the fold at various times during the year to compete in the strict one-design class and among their peers and their weekend warrior mates.
Bertrand has teamed up with an impressive crew. In the middle will be Grant Simmer. He has recently returned from his ninth America’s Cup and a long stint in America working as the General Manager of Oracle Team USA, the winners of the 34th America’s Cup.
At the front will be his long-time Etchells crew mate and friend, Andrew Palfrey. Palfrey’s most recent campaign was as Head Coach of the Artemis Racing America’s Cup Team. He has represented Australia at the Olympic Games, at various class world championships and has competed in four Etchells world championships.
Of all the crew available for Bertrand to select to sail with him, including former crew members Sir Ben Ainslie and Tom Slingsby, these two crew are his top choice.
'Doggy (Andrew) has sailed with me all the way through with Ben Ainslie and with Tommy (Slingsby). So Doggy is The Man and a wonderful friend. And with Grant; we hooked up for the (2010/11) Nationals in Geelong which we won and of course Grant goes back 30 years when he was my tactical navigator on Australia II. We are also great mates. So the net of it all is that we have so much fun together, which is great.
Triad amigos, John Bertrand, Grant Simmer and Andrew Palfrey
'They are coming with me to the World Championship in Newport, Rhode Island, next year. That is our aim. We certainly look forward to the nationals as part of our preparation. In terms of other preparation for the Worlds, at this stage it’s zero. I have limited time. I have just taken on the presidency of Swimming Australia so the sailing scene is less for me now than it was. So I am just trying to fit in the major regattas.'
Entries close on the 27th October with late entries incurring an additional fee. Racing starts on the 12th November.
For more event information, go South Port yatch Club website