John Bertrand was born on 20 December 1946. His interest in engineering as a discipline was sparked after being advised that a degree in Mechanical Engineering would lead him to a career in naval architecture, which he greatly desired. He chose Monash University because of its ‘excellent reputation’. Bertrand remembers Monash as:
… cold, windy, and hard work until I discovered Dr Bill Melbourne, then Head of Fluid Mechanics. My world then changed. My final year thesis ‘Optimum angle of attack of America’s Cup sails’, topped the University. I was on fire!
Bertrand, who is known to many for his involvement in the world of yachting and sailing, was a member of the Monash University Sailing Club. He remembers the intervarsity sailing regattas and the great parties that were held.
After completing his undergraduate studies, Bertrand relocated to the United States to continue his education. In 1971, he graduated from MIT, Boston with a Master of Science. After graduating, Bertrand realised his dream and commenced as a Naval Architect with Warwick Hood back in Sydney, Australia.
Despite finally achieving his long sought after dream, Bertrand quickly discovered that being a Naval Architect was not for him. Bertrand’s true passion was sailing. He was involved in five America’s Cup campaigns from 1970–1995, triumphantly skippering Australia II to victory in 1983. He founded North Sails (Melbourne), as well as working in finance, property development and media. He co-founded and was Chairman of Quokka Sports. Bertrand also represented Australia at two Olympic Games, and was awarded Member of the Order of Australia in 1985. He continues competing at the highest level and is also Chairman of the Australian Olympic sailing team selection committee for the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Reflecting on his time at Monash University, Bertrand comments:
I found that the foundations I received at Monash put me in good stead for my postgraduate learnings at MIT in Boston. In fact my Monash Mechanical Engineering undergraduate degree was world class. My engineering background has allowed me to analyse and think through problems. [It has] also prepared me for a highly technical world. It certainly helped us win the America’s Cup!