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Sam Newton - the best in both worlds

by Frank Quealey 15 Jan 2014 00:04 PST 15 January 2014
Sam Newton aboard the ORACLE TEAM USA AC45 © Guilain Grenier / ORACLE TEAM USA

Two of the highest profile sailing classes for more than 100 years have been The America's Cup and the 18ft Skiffs.

While the 18s have been famous for their spectacular speed and wild rides/capsizes, The America's Cup has been contested mainly by large, slow moving yachts of various lengths.

This has changed in recent years with the introduction of high-tech catamarans for the AC, and 2013 reached a high point with the 72-Footers racing on San Francisco Bay.

Comparing these two vastly different, high profile racing machines is far from easy but the best person to make the comparison must surely be Sam Newton.

Sam, who is one of Australia's most talented sailors, was part of the 2013 winning US Team Oracle in The America's Cup and is also a four-times JJ Giltinan (world) champion on Gotta Love It 7 in the 18ft Skiffs.

Now back in Australia on Gotta Love It 7 in search of a fifth Giltinan title, Sam took time out to discuss what he sees as the differences in the two boats.

"The 18's and Cats have many obvious differences but a lot of similarities as well."

"I had the pleasure of doing a lot of sailing and racing on the AC45's and AC72's over the past 2 years and between them I also experienced a lot of similarities to the 18ft Skiff."

"When Oracle set the Protocol for the 34th Cup, their concept had a lot of similarities to what the 18ft skiffs have been doing for decades."

"It was all about creating a spectacle for sponsors and fans, something the skiffs have done well for a long time. The racing is short and intense and the venue is close to vantage points to ensure it encourages a big following."

"On board the boats, the main difference between the Skiff and the cat is obvious. Two hulls and a wing sail compared to the single hull and a conventional mainsail. Another is the much larger team of eleven sailors on the AC72, which brings in a whole new dynamic."

"All the boats are fast, they are all wet and they all get the adrenaline going when the breeze is up, which is what I love. They all feel like your sailing on the edge in the higher winds, which keeps you on your feet and thinking ahead as you become fully aware of the consequences if it goes wrong."

"One thing still remains; the 18ft skiff is by far the hardest to bear away at the top mark in 20+ knots. The 45's give good action to the sailors and spectators at the top mark as we saw through the AC World Series, and the 72ft Cats are a lot easier by using the foils to create lift in the bow which we don't have the option of in the skiff."

"It's been great to be back out sailing on Sydney Harbour. From my travels, it's still the best harbour in the world to sail and play and I'm enjoying being back with my long time sailing partner Seve (Jarvin)."

"Now it's all about getting the new "7" skiff up to speed to challenge in the upcoming JJ Giltinan Championship, which is looking like being the most competitive line up in recent years."

The Gotta Love It 7 team of Seve, Sam and Scott Babbage will go into the 2014 JJ Giltinan Championship as favourites in March, but face a challenge of more than 30 skiffs from six countries in the regatta, which will celebrate 75 years of the world's greatest 18 Footer championship.

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