Geelong’s Corio Bay will play host to two America’s Cup winning skippers this long weekend.

In what is possibly a world first, two winning America’s Cup skippers – John Bertrand and Glenn Ashby – will      team up on the one boat to compete in the Etchells State Championships from March 9 to 11, 2019 at the Royal Geelong Yacht Club.

Bertrand and Ashby, both Olympic medalists and state and world champions, will compete on Bertrand’s Etchell “Triad2,” joining a fleet of approximately 25 Etchells – three or four person keel boats – for the three day championships.

The Etchells are a one-design class that attracts the top level of sailors from around the world.

Meanwhile, about 25 of the state’s best sailors will compete in the 9er State Championships which is also being held over the weekend, in preparation for next year’s 49er/49er FX/Nacra 17 World Championships, also being held in Geelong.

The 9er State Championships has three classes racing – the smaller 29ers class, the larger 49er FX and the high performance 49ers. The 49er and 49er FX divisions are both Olympic classes with sailors competing on light weight, high performance, off-the beach skiffs.

The Laser Masters World Championship will also be held in Geelong next year during the 2020 Summer of Sailing.

Geelong will be the epicentre of world sailing next year when it welcomes about 800 local and international competitors.

Some of the world’s best sailors from countries including the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany and New Zealand will be competing in the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 World Championships.

The World Championships will be a key regatta for selection for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics for many of these countries.

The 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 World Championships will take place from February 8 to 15, 2020, while the Laser Masters World Championship are from March 19 to 28, 2020.

The RGYC will also host the Cadet National Championships (December 27 to January 3, 2019/2020), the Festival of Sails (January 25 to 27, 2020) and the biennial Wooden Boat Festival (March 7 to 9, 2020).  The sailing events are expected to inject more than $6 million into the Victorian economy as competitors, support crew and spectators flock to Geelong and the surrounding region.

In 2017, Ashby skippered Emirates Team New Zealand to their first America’s Cup win in 17 years. In 2021, he will skipper Emirates Team New Zealand’s when they defend their America’s Cup title in Auckland.

Ashby, who was born and raised in Bendigo, is also an Olympic silver medalist and multiple Australian champion. Last November he won his 10th A-Class Catamaran World Championship.

Bertrand, who won bronze at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, famously skippered Australia II to success in the historic 1983 America’s Cup, ending 132 years of American supremacy. Bertrand is also a two times World Etchell Class Champion.

Ashby and Bertrand headed out onto Corio Bay for a sail this morning with teammate Billy Brown, ahead of the weekend’s racing.

“I haven’t been on the Etchells for about four years or maybe even more so it will be nice to go out for a couple of hours to work out where all of the ropes are again,” Ashby said.

“It will be a fun opportunity to sail together. The sailing is always fantastic here,” Ashby said of Corio Bay.

“It’s one of Australia’s hidden gems for racing for all different types of classes. It really is great sailing – I always enjoy my time here.”

“I was here for the SuperFoiler Grand Prix last year and had a fantastic event there and we did well – previously I have done other events in Geelong as well.”

Ashby said it was “an absolute feather in Geelong’s cap” to be hosting the world championships next year.

“The 49ers, 49er FX and Nacra 17 are going to be blessed with some fantastic yachting on Corio Bay.”

“I think the reason why Geelong has been able to secure these events is because of the good work Geelong has done in the past with other events and particularly the sailing events. It is a real credit to the community there and the club.”

Meanwhile, Bertrand predicted the racing would be extremely intense on Corio Bay this long weekend.

“It’s like an amphitheatre, a large part of the sailing venue is circled by land so it makes the racing really interesting.”

“It’s going to be a terrific regatta with world class competition. We will give it our best shot and have a lot of fun doing it.”

Bertrand and Ashby both said they were looking forward to sailing together for the first time.

“It’s something I have always wanted to do. Glenn’s been able to get away from his America’s Cup responsibilities this weekend in Auckland and come sail with me so I am thrilled about that.”

Bertrand said it was a credit to the RGYC to be hosting the World Championships next year.

“The World Championships are not bestowed on clubs without superb environment and superb facilities. RGYC is a superb choice.”

RGYC Commodore John Kint said the club was delighted to be hosting a strong fleet for the state championships this weekend, including the two America’s Cup winners.

“To have two winning America’s Cup skippers, from different eras of this historic race, sailing on the same boat is pretty special.”

Looking ahead, the Commodore said “2020 would be “a massive year for the RGYC and for Geelong”.

“RGYC is gaining a strong reputation for attracting major events to the Geelong region. We look forward to welcoming some of the best sailors from around the world to our waters and our wonderful city next year.”