John Bertrand anticipates thrilling Etchells Worlds in Fremantle

EVENT: 2024 Etchells World Championship
HOST CLUB: Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club (venue: Fremantle Sailing Club)
DATES: 15-22 March 2024
AUTHOR: Harry Fisher
PHOTOS: Down Under Sail

Australian sailing legend John Bertrand is expecting a close battle in this year’s Etchells World Championship, as some of the best sailors in the class head to Fremantle for the regatta in March.

Reflecting on the recent national championships held on Sydney Harbour, where Bertrand and his team finished seventh overall, he said the Etchells class in Australia was in good shape heading into the Worlds.

“The Etchells class in Australia is alive and well and super, super competitive,” he said. “There’s no question it’s world-class from my perspective.”

As attention shifts to the coming events in Western Australia, beginning with the WA States in mid-February, Bertrand said he was looking forward to preparing on Fremantle waters, which offer up a mix of conditions at that time of the year.

“it’s a misnomer about the Fremantle Doctor being a lot of wind, and well of course it is in high summer, but March in Fremantle can be a big range of conditions,” he said.

“Generally, the sea breezes will be nowhere near as strong as a so-called ‘Fremantle Doctor’, one would assume it will be a wide range of conditions.”

Bertrand said that about 5-8 Australian boats could be capable of winning the Worlds, however it would be newly-crowned Australian Champion Graeme Taylor and his team on Magpie that remain early favourites.

“Well GT (Graeme Taylor), Richie and James are doing a really nice job, they’ve won the last several regattas by being very smooth, they’re very good with changing their gears, and their tactics are very solid – they’ve really set the pace.”

Bertrand said racing the Etchells class was some of the most thrilling racing on offer, referring to it as the “Olympic class in non-Olympic years.”

“In the Etchells fleets, we have a lot of Olympic medalists, Olympians competing as tacticians or whatever, and so it’s really sophisticated racing, I personally love it,” he said.

“I’d say that from within the Australian fleet, there’s probably five to eight boats that could win the World Championships if they put the regatta together properly.

“These World Championships are always hard to win regardless, and I think we have a pretty strong contingent coming from the UK and we will be getting some American entries coming too, which is all just part of the mix of a World Championship.”

Bertrand said Fremantle’s sailing history as the home of the America’s Cup defence was significant and provided an exciting and welcoming venue for the regatta both on and off the water.

“The Western Australians love their sailing, and Fremantle is the home of the defence of the Americas Cup, I’ve personally spent a lot of time in Fremantle,” he said.

“We were over there, of course, in September last year for the 40 year anniversary (of the 1983 America’s Cup), which is fantastic, and they had a wonderful exhibition (at the Maritime Museum).”

The Worlds begin on 15 March 2024 and will be hosted by the Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club, with support from the Fremantle Sailing Club and Royal Perth Yacht Club.

The event media for the 2024 Etchells Worlds has been made possible with support from HillPDA Consulting.

For more information head to www.etchellsworldsfremantle.com

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