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Metung; Victorian State title goes to master apprentice

2 February 2009 John Lethlean

Master apprentice John Bertrand steers Triad to a podium finish in 09 Victorian State Championship

"Master apprentice John Bertrand steers Triad to a podium finish in 09 Victorian State Championship"

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Nestled in the Gippsland area of Victoria some four hours drive from Melbourne is Metung Yacht Club, home to the most isolated of the 15 Australian Etchells fleets. Over the weekend of 30 January to 1 February the fleet hosted the Terry White Chemists 2009 Victorian Etchells State Championship.

The fleet of 30 yachts competed in a range of conditions from zero to almost too much breeze in the seven-race regatta on the flat water of Lake King. Metung fleet captain Peter Wilkinson said "in the last day it was still open between the top three boats. It was a great shake-down event for those going on to compete in the World Championship. A lot of them bought their wives with them and made it a bit of a holiday. It was tough on the water and great on the land as many of them visited the club and restaurants in our quaint little village."

The Weekend Australian Magazine journalist John Lethlean provided the following report on the weekend's racing.

America's Cup hero and still Australia's most recognisable yachtsman, John Bertrand, proved he's lost little of his touch at the helm at the weekend winning the Victorian Etchells class championship, at Metung in the state's east.

Bertrand, fresh from winning the national title of the ultra-competitive Etchells racing class in January in his Brighton-based Triad, has firmed as Australia's best chance for the forthcoming Audi Etchells Worlds in Melbourne this March.

The Victorian titles attracted a particularly strong field of elite sailors, including several crews from New Zealand and Sydney, in the build-up for the international series. It included several Beijing Olympians as well as stars of Sydney skiff racing and offshore yachts.

Bertrand's crew included three-time world Laser champion and Beijing Olympian Tom Slingsby and master tactician Andrew Palfrey, recently returned from the Olympics where he crewed with Star class helmsman Ian Murray.

Over seven heats at Metung, Bertrand and crew nudged out his 1983 Australia II crewman at the America's Cup Rob Brown (Steampacket 7) and third placegetter Magpie, owned by Skandia co-helmsman and Sydney-Hobart runner up in 2008 Graeme Taylor. Skandia co-helmsman Grant Wharington was tactician.

Accepting the title, Bertrand payed tribute to the calibre of his crew in the Etchells, a class favoured by so many Olympic yachtsmen in non-Olympic years, describing himself as "the master apprentice".

The 1983 America's Cup winning helmsman goes to the Worlds, at Brighton, with Andrew Palfrey as his tactician and British import Ben Ainslie whose three Olympic gold and one silver medal, in various classes, make him possibly the most respected small-boat racing yachtsmen in the world today.

Full results available on the event website

2009 Victorian States

"2009 Victorian States"

Photo by:
Bill Bell


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