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Gladwell's Line: Three-peat in the JJ's - a first for a non-Australian crew

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World.com/nz 22 Mar 18:33 PDT 22 March 2020
Brad Collins, Matt Steven and Dave McDiarmid - Honda Marine - JJ Giltinan 18ft Championships - March 2020 - Sydney Harbour © Michael Chittenden

Highlight of the week just past has been the win by Honda Marine in the JJ Giltinan 18ft Championship in Sydney.

It is the third successive win for Dave McDiarmid, Matt Steven and Brad Collins, and arguably it should have been their fourth after their Appeal was upheld on the 2017 event, but only went to a re-hearing a few weeks before their first win in the JJ's in 2018.

That 2018 win was the first for a New Zealand crew since 1974 when the McDell brothers and Peter Brooke sailing Travelodge won on the Waitemata.

Honda Marine is just the third boat in 18ft skiff history to win the JJ Giltinan Trophy on three successive years, and the first non-Australian boat to achieve that feat. In addition, all the wins were on Sydney harbour - which has long been a graveyard for New Zealand hopes of winning the trophy since it was first sailed in 1938.

Honda Marine won four races, in the nine-race series, finishing out of the top three in only one race.

Before he left for Australia, Dave McDiarmid told Sail-World that their preparation was a little late this year, due to the birth of a daughter, and really only got into the boat after New Year. He also hadn't watched a single race of the Sydney 18ft season on Youtube. They had a couple of new jibs from North Sails NZ, and that was it.

They had been pushed in New Zealand by C-Tech (Alex Vallings), and Maersk sailed by a young crew, in their first season together. Four boats contested a very windy New Zealand nationals, while the Sydney-siders enjoyed lighter breezes. In the JJ's there was a good mix of breeze - often all within one race. Their ability to change gears, get good starts (in the front row), and always keep the race leader under pressure gave Honda Marine their winning edge.

Dave McDiarmid and his crew made some very astute calls around marks. They were usually able to make a better call than the locals, often picking up a better wind angle and more pressure, which paid huge dividends on occasions.

If you'd not known any different and had to pick the boat with the best local knowledge, it would have been Honda Marine. Theirs was a remarkable performance in many respects.

Many thanks to NZ photographer and videographer, Michael Chittenden for the images used in this story. Michael is one of the Camera Cat crew - who bring you the live coverage - and always has a camera handy. Michael has been shooting all skiff classes in Sydney for many years including the Hystericals (Classic 18s), 18fter, 16fters and smaller.

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