by Rob Mundle
At the 2012 Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, John Bertrand, the man who steered Australia II to its historic victory in the America’s Cup in 1983, will lead a crew that includes other Australian sporting legends and he will be the only one of the crew who knows how to sail.
America’s Cup legend, John Bertrand, and his ‘Once were Worriers’ crew, including Ron Barassi, Dipper DiPierdomenico and Simon Crean, have chartered Bruce Absolon’s Spirit of the Maid for Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2012
Among his team will be two greats of Australian Rules football – Hall of Fame members Ron Barassi and ‘Dipper’ DiPierdomenico. Federal parliamentarian and Government Minister, Simon Crean, will also be in the line-up.
All members of the group, who refer to themselves as ‘Once were Worriers’, are aged in their 60s and 70s.
‘It’s all about having fun,’ Bertrand explained. ‘We are a group of 21 mates from around Australia who every couple of years go out and do something different, something out of the box. Several years ago we walked the Kokoda Track. We then rode mountain bikes 450 kilometres through the mountains of Mongolia. Last year it was white water rafting down the Snowy River.
‘This year the guys came to me and said they wanted to do a yacht race, and mentioned the Sydney to Hobart. My immediate response was 'no way', telling them that it was the equivalent of rank amateurs trying to start at the top of a sport. I then suggested Audi Hamilton Island Race Week was a far better alternative: they could enjoy warm weather racing, great parties and be tucked up in their beds each night. Not surprisingly, they liked that idea.’
Close racing in the tropics: Part of the fleet at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week heads towards the famous waters of the Whitsunday Passage.
There is an interesting link between Audi Hamilton Island Race Week and Australia II breaking the longest winning streak in international sport by winning the America’s Cup in 1983. Hamilton Island Race Week was established off the back of the euphoria that came with the incredible victory. Also, this year will be the 29th staging of Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, and just a few weeks later, on September 26, it will be 29 years since Bertrand led his great team to that historic win which literally stopped the nation.
The ‘Once were Worriers’ team will charter Bruce Abolson’s Volvo 60, Spirit of the Maid, for Race Week, and, seeing Bertrand will have a team of non-sailors with him, Absolon and two of his regular crew will be aboard to support the skipper. They will compete in the Performance Racing Division.
Bertrand, who sampled Audi Hamilton Island Race Week briefly six years ago when he sailed for two days aboard Bob Oatley’s 66-footer, Wild Oats X, said he was looking forward to experiencing the complete sailing and social side of the event this year. He plans to have his novices at the island two days before the series starts on August 17 so they can learn the ropes aboard Spirit of the Maid.
‘My guys don’t even know the difference between a jib and a mainsail,’ said Bertrand, ‘but even so, Barassi is adamant that we are going to win. I told him I was equally adamant that we had two aims for Race Week: not to kill anyone, and survive the regatta – including the parties.’
Audi Hamilton Island Race Week website