Please select your home edition
Wildwind 2016 728x90

Fitting finale at the Etchells Australian Championship

by John Curnow on 16 Nov 2013
Men at Work, John Bertrand, Andrew Grant Simmer and Andrew Palfrey competing in last year’s Etchells National Championship in West Australia Bernie Kaaks
In the very year that Australia marks the passage of 30 years since a group of dedicated sailors changed the course of sporting history, and as celebrations for the Etchells 40th anniversary draw to an end, it seems terribly fitting that the two should be inexorably linked.

The 2013-14 Australian Etchells Australian Champions are Australia II’s John ‘JB’ Bertrand AO and Grant ‘Grunter’ Simmer. The third crewmember, Andrew ‘Dog’ Palfrey is a tad younger, and like the rest of us, had to watch it all unfold on TV. This year’s title takes Bertrand’s personal tally to seven (and also one World Championship) in the class he fell in love with nearly twenty years ago. Talking of World Championships, this very crew are known to have a wee penchant for the 2014 title, which is to be staged in none other than Newport R.I., as if you could not have seen that coming…

The man himself commented, ‘Of the five Doggy and I have sailed together, we now have four titles and a second place. This regatta did have a set of consistent results, which is great. I’m going to keep one SMS on my iPhone, as it came from Tom (Slingsby). He said, ‘Awesome guys! That’s the most impressive scorecard I’ve ever seen in an Etchells Nationals. Really impressed. Well Done!’ What an accolade from our Olympic Gold Medallist’, said a truly humbled Bertrand.

‘We saw 9 to 18 knots over the course of the regatta, so it was really just medium to fresher. All in all, we enjoyed quintessential champagne conditions offshore of the Gold Coast. What was worth noting was how close it was not only at the top mark, but also the bottom and then the finish. All of us (JB, Grunter and Doggy) commented on the high level and refined racing that this regatta just kept on providing.’

‘One crew from lake Macquarie commented that all the bastards up front are World Champions, Olympians or America’s Cup veterans. For us the fleet sure was stacked with great talent and it was just awesome to be out there with terrific people to race against. Peter ‘Polly’ McNeill (former World Champion) has come from nowhere. What a great job to come back so strongly!’

‘We’re running a North Sails main and Doyle jibs, with a combination for our ‘chutes, as a result of having a look at what Jud Smith has been up to. This was our preparation for the 2014 Worlds – we’re all very keen to do it. My next regatta will be the Victorian State Championship at Metung (7 to 10 Mar 2014), which I think will be big and then Triad will be shipped off to Newport.’

‘The fleet may have been a bit smaller because of the time of year as we all head in to Christmas, but the decision to run it now was based on the weather. January and February can be a bit mushy and there are the conditions over the bar to look at. We were missing the likes of Graeme ‘GT’ Taylor and Tom Slingsby who could just not make it, but did not feel like it when you were racing out there. If it was January, it would have easily been 50+ Etchells.’

‘The boats may be classed as vintage, but there is still something in it. They are so refined in the tuning. We’re down to one turn on the lower and I have never been at that level of gradation between fast and slow. It was all about drag racing, boat speed and boat handling, not massive wind shifts. Seven knots uphill may not be huge, but it really is quite intense.’

‘Handling the swell and chop was where you got your refinement. You know, Rafa (Spanish Olympian, Rafael Trujillo Villar) loves the Etchells and he’s raced so many boats. You’re crossing others by 20 to 30 cm, which is just amazing. There are lots of yachting luminaries really looking at Etchells once more because of what they are. True One Design. It is a different world, but it contains the best there is on offer’, Bertrand finished by saying.

Another person very happy with the overall outcome is Etchells Class President, Jake Gunther. Catching up with him in the first light of day he commented, ‘At 0530hrs there is plenty to see. What a great location! This may well be the most under-utilised location we’ve ever seen for a World Championship. All you need to do is manage the time of year and the tides and away you go. Well done to the Southport Yacht Club, the Etchells Gold Coast Fleet, Race management and all those volunteers!’

‘Throughout the regatta everybody was gunning for the best spot possible. Where we all finish up is important in light of our goals for coming here in the first place. One of our main objectives is always to be the first of the non-pro, non-Olympian and non-World champ crews. We’ve had a third and fifth in previous World Championship campaigns and this particular fleet is something else. All our results are sort of sixth to ninth place, but there is something in understanding the track.’

‘We have been within a boat length of Mark Johnston for most of this, and he was on top after day one. My crew of John Collingwood, Stuart Skeggs and I do a lot of two-boating with David Clark and there is some serious talent on board there, as there was throughout the entire top end. Mark had Nik Burfoot and Rafa Trujilo Villar on board. Rafa has not only represented Spain at the Olympics (2000, 2004 and 2008), he medalled, too, with a Silver in the Finn at Athens. To get over the top of them on the last day is a delight and shows how in Etchells, every single place counts’, said Gunther.

The other and virtually as important prize on offer at the Etchells Australian Championship is the North Sails jib. This is awarded to the mid-fleet vessel and apart from anything else, acts as a sort of encouragement award. Winning this fantastic prize for 2013-14 is Jeanne-Claude Strong and the crew of Yandoo XX, which consists of Nev Whittey, Marcus Burke and Tiana Whittey. Strong said of the win, ‘Bit of a surprise and rather nice. We’ve been a Doyles boat to date. I was talking with Richie Allanson just before and we’re certainly happy to try this new medium job out - looking forward to trying something different!’

‘First is always the best, but there’s a 10th, 11th and 12th in amongst our results, which is a real credit to the crew. Can I tell you that this is a lovely location, with great people, awesome conditions. We’re just delighted to be here with such a wonderful collection of sailors’, Strong finished by saying.

So that’s it. The last bullet has been fired, so to speak, on another terrific Etchells Australian Championship. Whether you’re first or 31st, the challenge remains with you as a crew of sailors. To begin your Etchells journey, go to and locate a fleet near you. One Design does not get better.

T Clewring - GenericPredictWind.comupffront 660x82

Related Articles

Gladwell's Line -The America's Cup settlement deal
The 'News' today that Emirates Team New Zealand has won their case before the Arbitration Panel is not news The 'News' today that Emirates Team New Zealand has won their case before the America's Cup Arbitration Panel is not new - Sail-World reported the same story in the first and second weeks of September. The Hearing on the amount of compensation to be paid is yet to be held. So far we have been unable to discover a date if indeed one has been set. Maybe next year?
Posted on 11 Oct
Debriefing the 2016 J/70 Worlds with Winning Skipper Joel Ronning
I talked with Joel Ronning after the 2016 Alcatel J/70 Worlds to learn about his team’s win at this high-level regatta. Since its inception in 2012, the J/70 has become the most popular One Design boat in decades, with 1,100+ boats sailing in myriad countries. Some 68 boats from 15 countries arrived on San Francisco Bay last week to determine bragging rights at the 2016 Alcatel J/70 Worlds. I caught up with Joel Ronning to learn more about the Catapult team’s road to becoming the 2016 J/70 World Champions.
Posted on 5 Oct
Rio 2016 - America's Cup champ says Paralympic racing is closest ever
Twice America’s Cup champion, Rick Dodson is extremely impressed with the standard of racing in the three man Sonar Twice America’s Cup champion, Rick Dodson is extremely impressed with the standard of racing in the three man Sonar keelboat class at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. The regatta is being held in Guanabara Bay on three of the courses used for the Olympic Sailing Regatta in August.
Posted on 13 Sep
Debriefing the Rio 2016 Olympics with Team USA’s Helena Scutt
I talked with Team USA’s Helena Scutt to hear about her Olympic experience, and to learn more about her post-Rio plans. The 49erFX was introduced to Olympic circles when it replaced the Women’s Match Racing event following the 2012 Games. Not surprisingly, it drew high-performance sailors for the Rio 2016 Olympics, including Team USA’s Paris Henken and Helena Scutt. While Henken and Scutt were Olympic first-timers, they put on a strong show. I caught up with Scutt to hear more about her Olympic experience.
Posted on 8 Sep
A Q&A with Peter Bresnan ONE Palma’s founder and director
Sail-World interviewed ONE Palma’s founder Peter Bresnan to learn about the company’s partnership with McConaghy Boats For the past eight years, ONE Palma (formerly OneSails Spain) has been building a strong name, first as a sailmaker and later with refit work. Recently, ONE Palma and McConaghy Boats-legendary boatbuilders who have crafted some of the planet’s fastest sailboats-entered a business partnership. I caught up with Peter Bresnan, ONE Palma’s founder and director, to learn more about this new direction.
Posted on 2 Sep
America's Cup - Emirates Team NZ train late on the Waitemata Harbour
Emirates Team NZ were out for a training session that ran into the early Thursday evening. Emirates Team NZ were out for a training session that ran into the early Thursday evening. The team were sailing their recently launched AC45 Surrogate test boat which features an articulated rudder gantry - taking the AC45 close to the geometry of the AC50 to be used in the 2017 America's Cup.
Posted on 1 Sep
Dateline Rio - Sailing Olympics review - as good as it gets?
The Rio Sailing Olympics was widely judged to have been the best of recent times. The Rio Sailing Olympics was widely judged to have been the best of recent times. The weather was better than Weymouth and Qingdao, the courses more varied, but from a working media perspective, it was the people running the Rio regatta who really made the difference.
Posted on 26 Aug
Rio 2016 - Plain speaking by triple-medalist on Olympic sailing moves
Triple Olympic medalist, Santiago Lange has been on the sharp end of changes made to Olympic classes and formats Santiago Lange, a six-time Olympian and Bronze medallist in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, won his third medal – Gold sailing in the Nacra 17 class. With that length of experience at an Olympic level, having sailed the Laser, Tornado and now Nacra 17 classes his comments on the future shape of the Olympic regatta was one of the highlights of the Medallists Media Conferences.
Posted on 25 Aug
An Q&A with Steve and Heidi Benjamin about the NYYC’s 2016 Queen’s Cup
Sail-World caught up with Steve and Heidi Benjamin to learn more about Heidi’s historic win in the NYYC’s Queen’s Cup. When it comes to U.S. Grand Prix sailing, it’s hard not to encounter the names of Steve and Heidi Benjamin. The two highly polished sailors have been successfully campaigning their series of yachts, named SPOOKIE, for years, starting first with a Carkeek 40 and progressing to their TP52. I caught up with Steve and Heidi to learn more about Heidi’s historic win in the NYYC’s Queen’s Cup
Posted on 19 Aug
Rio 2016 - Images of the penultimate race in the Finns - Scott wins
Sail-World's Richard Gladwell was on the water for the final race of the Qualifying Series of the Mens Finn Sail-World's Richard Gladwell was on the water for the final race of the Qualifying Series of the Mens Finn, in what potentially could have been Giles Scott's (GBR) Gold medal winning race. In the end, the current world champion won in style.
Posted on 15 Aug