Former America's Cup winning skipper and Olympic medallist John Bertrand has won the New South Wales Etchells championship

Former America’s Cup winning skipper and Olympic medallist John Bertrand today notched up another prestigious victory when he won the International Etchells New South Wales State Championship on Sydney Harbour.

Going into the seventh and final heat one point behind the series leader, Sydney rival Neville Wittey, Bertrand steered Two Saints and a Magpie to a conservative fourth place today while Wittey, at the helm of Yandoo XX, had his worst race, finishing 13th and dropping to third overall.

Bertrand and his crew, Sydney sailors Mark Richards and Richie Allanson, finished with 19 points after discarding their worst race, a 27th, with second place overall on 23 points going to final race winner, Michael Coxon, skippering North Sydney Station. Wittey finished third overall with 24.33 points.

Lake Macquarie yachtsman Peter McNeill sailed Tom Piper VXIII consistently to take fourth place, followed by former world champion Cameron Miles in Pacesetter, and another America’s Cup sailor Rob Brown in Steam Packet V.

Youth match racing champion, 22-year-old Michael Dunstan placed a most creditable seventh, steering Predator, while in eighth place was another former America’s Cup skipper, Iain Murray, steering Kaenon.

Apart from experienced Etchells sailors Bertrand, Coxon and Wittey, who each had two wins, Dunstan was the only other heat winner, sailing in his first major Etchells regatta.

Today’s final race was sailed in near perfect conditions for race officers of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron and competitors – a 14-16 knot north-easterly sea breeze.

The 46-boat fleet was the largest one-design keelboat fleet ever to race on Sydney Harbour and certainly the fleet with the greatest depth of talent since the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.

Michael Coxon scored a 22-second win in North Sydney Station from Argha Noah (Robert Weir and Steven Tracy), with Racer-xy (Jason Muir) a further 28 seconds back, Bertrand coming in fourth, just six seconds astern.

The NSW championship is a significant lead-up to Bertrand’s objective of winning the 2004 World Championship. Since steering Australia II to victory in the 1983 America’s Cup Match at Newport, Rhode Island, Bertrand has enjoyed club racing in International Etchells at Melbourne’s Royal Brighton Yacht Club, and has contested national and world championships.

The 2004 world championship for the International Etchells will be sailed out of the Mooloolaba Yacht Club on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast from 28 July to 8 August, with the 2004 Australian Winter Championship from 11-14 June being followed by three pre-worlds regattas.

A fleet of up to 80 Etchells is expected for the world championship, including Dennis Conner, the US sailor whom Bertrand beat to win the America’s Cup more than 20 years ago, and possibly recent Cup winning skipper Russell Coutts, the now Swiss-based New Zealander.

Overall Results

1st Two Saints and a Magpie (John Bertrand, Vic) 1-1-2-27-2-9-4, 19 points

2nd North Sydney Station (Michael Coxon, NSW) 13-3-1-2-3-30-1, 23

3rd Yandoo XX (Neville Wittey, NSW) Avg(5.33)-2-12-1-1-3-13, 24.33

4th Tom Pepper XVII (Peter McNeill, NSW) 6-9-7-5-7-6-dnf, 40.0

5th Pacesetter (Cameron Miles, NSW) 2-25-8-20-5-5-5, 45.0

6th Steam Packet V (Rob Brown, NSW) 4-22-4-12-18-4-12, 54

7th Predator (Michael Dunstan, NSW) 8-6-9-24-dnf-1-8, 56

8th Kaenon (Iain Murray, NSW) dsq-4-5-10-21-2-16, 58