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The unluckiest JJ Giltinan Champion

by Frank Quealey on 12 Feb 2014
Dave Porter -unluckiest JJ Giltinan Champion - 2014 JJ Giltinan 18ft Skiff Championship Australian 18 Footers League © http://www.18footers.com.au
Dave Porter became a Giltinan Champion in 1975 when he steered KB to a brilliant victory on the Brisbane River, but fortune didn’t always smile on this great sailor as he was runner-up on five other occasions between 1973 and 1979.

Dave really was a great 18 Footer sailor, but having met him for the first time you soon realize he is an even better man.

When asked about some of the bad luck which plagued him during the Giltinan Championship regattas, he refused to make excuses and simply said how ecstatic he was to win the 1975 championship.

'It was the first time any of our crew had won the championship and so it was very special to each of us (Dave, Bob Ferris and Bob Tearne)', Dave said.

'We knew we had a good boat and crew and we prepared thoroughly for the regatta on the Brisbane River'.

'We capsized in Race 1 and finished only seventh, but we soon got back on track and won the remaining four races of the regatta'.

'We partied hard and long afterwards'.

While Dave was reluctant to say he had bad luck, the fact remains that on at least two occasions it was a matter of how he lost. On both occasions to Iain Murray’s Color 7 in 1977 and 1978.

Any recall of his career in the 18s should focus more on the positives. Six times in the top two in the Giltinan Championship in nine seasons of 18 Footer racing and how he is remembered by those lucky enough to see him compete.

Aside from his Giltinan results, Porter won three Australian Championships, five NSW Championships and numerous Club Championships.

Personally, watching Dave race on Sydney Harbour each weekend for nine years, I realized how talented he was and what a wonderful sportsman – win or lose.

From the view of a spectator, Dave Porter is certainly one of the greatest 18 Footer sailors in the sport’s illustrious history and his ‘bad luck’ Giltinan record should never take away from the enormous talent of a great sailor.

Like many other 18 Footer champions, Dave joined the class after winning the Inter-dominion 12ft Skiff Championship. With financial support from his father (Dave senior), he carried the name ‘Aussie’ on his first 18ft Skiff during the 1970-1971 Season.

('Aussie’ was the name of Dave Porter (senior) successful 12 Footer in 1930, which he was forced to sell because of the depression. Dave (junior) also carried the name on his 12ft Skiffs when he won the Inter-dominions in 1966 and 1967)

The Aussie 18 hull was designed by John Chapple and beautifully built from cedar veneer by Ian Prerdriau. The bare hull, including decks and buoyancy tanks, weighed 170lbs.

Although Aussie won two races at the 1971 regatta in Auckland, unfavourable conditions resulted in two DNFs, which proved too costly in the final result.

The following year, Dave’s family business, Porter Marine, supported the campaign, and it wasn’t until 1972-1973 before KB came along to support his campaign.

Dave and KB were an awesome combination over the next six years but, although he wouldn’t admit it,
1977 and 1978 must make him wonder about ‘luck’ and what might have been.

With a lead of 5½m over Iain Murray at the final rounding mark in 1977, Porter and the rest of the fleet elected to sail a safety first course to the finish in a 20-knot northerly wind and big seas. Realising he had nothing to lose, Murray pulled off the ‘impossible’ when he elected to sail the direct course to the finish and grabbed the title away from Porter.

If that defeat wasn’t bad enough, the following year Porter was incredibly unlucky before losing to Murray in a sail-off on the Brisbane River.

(This was one of the most controversial Giltinan Championship regattas in its 75-year history. The New Zealand team went as far as threatening a walk out following some controversial rulings by the Board of Control).

After taking a strong grip on the series with wins in each of the first two races, Porter’s KB suffered a broken mast in Race 5 and was forced to use a borrowed rig in the sail-off.

KB took an early lead, but when Murray set a brand new super-lightweight spinnaker on Color 7, the KB crew could do nothing but watch as Color 7 sailed past to victory.

It’s fair to say, Dave Porter was the ‘King of Sydney Harbour’ during most of the 1970s.

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