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2020 JJ Giltinan 18ft Skiff Championship: The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines, consistently very good

by Frank Quealey 27 Feb 21:20 PST 14-22 March 2020
Sydney Harbour traffic action in 2018-2019 © Frank Quealey

The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines 18ft Skiff team of Aron Everett, Courtney Mahar and Charlie Gundy are not only the big improvers in the Australian 18 Footers League's 2019-2020 Season fleet, they are now firmly planted in the top end of the fleet as we move towards the JJ Giltinan Championship, which will be contested by a 24-strong fleet on Sydney Harbour from 14-22 March.

After finishing 10th in the 2019 championship, Everett and his crew went to Lake Garda to compete in the European Championship, and the experience obviously was a great boost to confidence as 'The Oak' has been on the pace throughout the entire 2019-2020 season.

The current season began with two moderate performances in the first two races of the seven-race Spring Championship, but the team was soon on-a-roll with a win, two second placings, a third and a fifth in the next five races to finish runner-up to Brett Van Munster's www.appliancesonline.com.au in the series.

When the NSW Championship, the season's first major title, began in November, The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines continued the consistently good form shown during the Spring Championship and was again runner-up in the NSW title.

This time it took the experience of Winning Group's John Winning Jr., Seve Jarvin and Sam Newton to get the better of The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines.

As the local fleet prepares to take on David McDiarmid's defending champion Honda Marine team, next month on Sydney Harbour, the 18-boat fleet is presently contesting the nine-race Australian Championship.

Once again, The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines crew has produced consistently good performances, and with just two more short-course races to be sailed on Sunday (March 1) is currently in a group of five teams bunched in the chase behind Australian Championship leader Tech2.

Aron Everett, an airline pilot with QANTAS, deserves the success he is achieving with Courtney Mahar and Charlie Gundy, after having completed eleven seasons in the 18s - his third as a skipper. Before his move to the back of the boat, Aron previously sailed as sheet hand in skiffs skippered by Jonathan Whitty.

Like many Australian sailors, he began as a five-year-old in Sabots, at Hunters Hill Sailing Club, in the mornings then Mirror Dinghys, and later NS14s with his father in the afternoons. He then progressed through Flying 11s and 29ers, where he "competed against plenty of the current 18 sailors."

Aron says: "Moving from sheet hand to skipper was a steep learning curve, but there's a wealth of knowledge around the club, and many of the current and past sailors are more than happy to help out when I ask questions."

"I was lucky to get someone of Courtney's calibre on the sheet three years ago, now this year Charlie has fitted straight into the crew with his outstanding ability in the bow."

"The guys work well together and do an outstanding job each week, that's why we've managed to post some strong results so far this season."

Courtney Mahar is not only a fine sheet hand, he has enthusiasm for sailing and the 18s, and is a very competitive individual.

"Sailing is my first love. I'd like to go sailing every day, and I definitely like to win."

"I started as a seven-year-old, and I used to watch the 18s on tele when I was a kid. I like to have some fun and the downhill rides in the 18s are the best."

Commenting on Aron Everett as a skipper: "Az is cool and calm."

Charlie Gundy is just 21-years-old but already has a wide variety of sailing experience, including three seasons in the 18s before he joined 'The Oak' team this season, after finishing 6th in the 2019 Giltinan Championship as part of the Finport Finance team.

His bio of classes includes Flying 11s, Cherubs, 12ft Skiffs, youth match racing, offshore racing and four Sydney-Hobarts.

"Sailing this season with Aron and Courtney has been awesome. They are fun mates to sail with and I'm looking forward to the JJs as well as more sailing with the boys on the mighty Oak-4 Pines."

Both Courtney Mahar and Charlie Gundy have even greater motivation to be successful at the 2020 JJs as each will be competing against his brother when the fleet lines up in the championship.

Courtney's brother Elliott will crew with David Hayter on Queenslander. Charlie's brother Cam is a crew member on Marcus Ashley-Jones' R Marine Pittwater.

Pushed for a comment about the team's expectations for the upcoming Giltinan Championship, Everett said: "Everyone is getting faster each race, so we'll have to keep working as hard as possible to put together a strong regatta."

"I think consistency is key in a regatta like the JJs, and a solid preparation leading in pays dividends."

In such a competitive fleet as the upcoming JJs, finishing near the top won't be easy, but consistency is essential, and 'The Oak' team has plenty.

The final two races of the Australian Championship, re-sail of Race 5 as well as Race 9, will be sailed on Sunday over windward-return courses.

Spectators can see all the teams while they are rigging, then follow the racing on board the club's spectator ferry, which leaves Double Bay Wharf, alongside the rigging area, at 2pm.

Book online through the club's website www.18footers.com.

AeroMedia Live Broadcast team will be out on Sydney Harbour to capture all the action. For those who can't make it onto the water, live streaming is available at www.18footers.com and clicking on the '18 Footers TV' link.

Also follow all the club's racing throughout the entire 2019-2020 Racing Season:

  • Club Website - www.18footers.com
  • Twitter - @18skiff
  • Instagram - @18skiff
  • Facebook - International 18Ft Skiff

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