Remembering Forty Years Ago

Published Tue 26 Sep 2023

Forty years ago on the 26th of September the nation was transfixed by the race between the two 12 metres, Liberty and Australia II, that was unfolding at Newport, Rhode Island.

On that day was the final and deciding race, each boat having 3 wins.

After winning the start, Liberty was overtaken by Australia II, only to be then overtaken by Liberty. At the start of the final downwind leg Australia II was “in the groove” and ran Liberty down to take the lead on a downwind jibe. Australia II then led into the final windward leg to the finish line. After an intense tacking duel of nearly 50 tacks, Australia II finished with a winning margin of 43 seconds after the 4 1/2 hour race, thus creating history, becoming the first successful challenger in 132 years to win the America’s Cup.

As skipper of Australia II, John Bertrand’s name will forever be synonymous with that win, however John’s sailing resume is very long, having also won an Olympic Bronze medal in the Finn class and two-time World champion in Etchells. Just recently John won the 2023 Etchell National Championships in Adelaide.

John is also an Extraordinary Member of Chelsea Yacht Club, commencing his sailing career at Chelsea at the age of seven when he joined with his older brother Lex as cadet members. Both John and Lex’s sailing at Chelsea saw them win championships in Sabots, progressing to winning championships in Vaucluse Juniors (VJ’s), and in 1968 winning the Australian Lightweight Sharpie nationals held at Chelsea Yacht Club with John on helm, brother Lex as forward hand, and Peter Evans on mainsheet sailing their boat V93 “Triad”.

John and Lex’s triumphs sit alongside other Chelsea Yacht Club sailors who whilst sailing at Chelsea have collectively won two world championships, 46 National Championships, and 130 Victorian Championships in a range of boat classes, placing Chelsea Yacht Club as one of Australia’s outstanding clubs in developing and training participants and leaders in the sport.

Lex, who himself was a very successful Olympic coach, continues helping Chelsea Yacht Club develop the sailors of tomorrow. Described as the “the coaches coach” Lex, who has been a member for 70 years, is hands on at the Club every Saturday morning encouraging both the Club and all the Learn to Sail participants to love the sea and be the best they can.

In 2021 Chelsea Yacht Club awarded Lex the Club’s Significant Contribution Award for his lifetime contribution to sailing at both a national and international level, as well as his significant contribution to Chelsea Yacht Club through excellence and innovation. See here See link to Australian Sailing news article.

The Club expresses our gratitude and thanks to the Bertrand family for the legacy they have left our Club and their continuing association and contributions, and we join with them as we remember an event that changed a nation forty years ago, one whose roots started at Chelsea Yacht Club.

For membership and Learn to Sail enquiries at Chelsea Yacht Club please contact the club manager on 0493 187 792 or

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