Please select your home edition
Edition
Doyle Sails 2020 - By Sailors For Sailors 728x90 TOP

New Zealand's 18ft Skiff Racing Record

by Frank Quealey 17 Jun 2020 22:44 PDT
New Zealand's 18ft Skiff Racing Record: 1952 and 1954, Intrigue © Graham Mander collection

Three consecutive victories by the Honda Marine team of David McDiarmid, Brad Collins and Matt Steven in the world's premier JJ Giltinan 18ft Skiff Championship over the past three seasons, gives New Zealanders every right to boast at the moment.

It's not the first time the kiwis have tasted success. It's just the latest chapter of an 82-year-old story of New Zealand's 18ft Skiff Racing determination, innovation and championship success.

The story began at the inaugural JJ Giltinan regatta on Sydney Harbour in 1938, when New Zealand sent three boats to race against the might of the Australian 18s, and has continued throughout the championship's long history.

Australian administrators were so impressed by the challenge that they awarded the 1939 championship to Auckland. While the result was controversial, the regatta was a huge success as spectators along the foreshore were estimated at 25,000 people. When a local boat named Manu, won the title a great tradition of 18ft Skiff Racing was born in New Zealand.

Innovators who were prepared to experiment in their quest for victory have been wonderful contributors to the evolution of the 18s, particularly between the 1950s and 1970s.

It began in 1950 when Jack Logan believed that he wouldn't beat the Australians in the boat he sailed at the 1948 championship. He decided to browse through some old plans of his late father, who was a master designer and boat builder, and came across a design on a piece of 50-year-old parchment paper that gave him an idea for a new skiff.

Logan drew out the design, chopped off the bow and gave her a transom in place of a pointed stem. The public called her a 'skimmer', but Logan reckoned she was more like a frying pan, complete with a handle. He rigged the boat with the latest Bermudan rig, polished her hull to a mirror-finish, and christened her Komutu, the Maori word for surprise.

At the 1950 championship in Auckland, the Australian teams were unable to match the phenomenal speed of this highly unusual boat and were convincingly defeated in the three-race regatta.

Legendary Australian sailor Bill Barnett won the 1951 title back for Australia with Myra Too on Sydney Harbour, but New Zealand immediately struck back the following year when the championship was sailed out of the Royal Suva Yacht Club in Fiji.

Peter Mander progressed the design and innovation in the 18s at the 1952 championship with his championship-winning Intrigue, which was a cold-moulded round-bilge hull. It had a much more buoyant hull shape than the Australian 18s and weighed around 250 lbs, compared to the 400 lbs Australian 18s.

Intrigue also introduced the idea of having two of her five-man crew on trapeze wires which was claimed at the time "enabled one man to virtually have the leverage of two."

By the 1954 Championship all New Zealand boats had trapeze men, (they carried three men on the wire, sometimes four), swivelling masts and fittings. The hulls were built of cold moulded two and three skins diagonally laid planking.

New Zealand's designers and sailors had become great innovators and it wasn't a surprise that their innovations immediately changed the style of 18 Footers in Australia.

The next two championships during the 1950s went to Australian teams before the New Zealanders could get their names back on the Giltinan Trophy in 1960, when Bernie Skinner's Surprise defeated a small fleet in Auckland, and gave the kiwis their lone victory for the kiwis in the 1960s.

Despite the lack of success in the 60s, there were signs of a revival early in the 70s when Bruce Farr-designed boats began to compete strongly against the top Australian teams. In 1971, only the consistency of the experienced TraveLodge team prevented a victory for Miss UEB.

When the 1972 championship was contested on Brisbane's Waterloo Bay, the next era of New Zealand success in the 18s became a reality when Don Lidgard's Smirnoff totally dominated the fleet.

Once again, this quickly led to a general move by most of the leading Australian teams to this new design, and in 1973 Bob Holmes won his fifth title when he skippered TraveLodge to victory on Sydney Harbour.

The following year was another victory for the TraveLodge hotel group, but this time it was an outstanding victory for Terry McDell's TraveLodge New Zealand team with a dominant performance on Waitemata Harbour, Auckland.

Unfortunately for New Zealand 18ft Skiff Racing, McDell's 1974 victory was the last for the kiwis until David McDiarmid won the first of his three consecutive victories with Honda Marine in 2018. The Honda Marine team has since proved itself to be an outstanding champion outfit against the best of the Australian 18s teams.

Related Articles

Record Breaking Boat, Record Breaking Team
Michael Walsh, Phil Barnett and Neil Paton: an intriguing story of boat and skipper When Michael Walsh, Phil Barnett and Neil Paton teamed in the 18ft Skiff Prudential and won the 1989 JJ Giltinan on Sydney Harbour, they equalled the 1981 record set by the legendary Color 7 team of Iain Murray, Andrew Buckland and Don Buckley. Posted on 6 May
Smeg: 25 Years of Champion Sponsorship
2021 JJ Giltinan win a fitting reward to another long-term sponsor Whether it's a high-performance sport or a small, local sporting club, to be successful, the organisation needs the support of commercial sponsorship or, at least, one major benefactor. Posted on 2 May
Live the dream - Sail an 18 Footer
Now more than ever is the time to get involved in sailing an 18' skiff The boats, crews, and sponsors for next season are already mostly in place. Planning and organising pre-season is no trivial task, but interest is high and we are in a great position to make next season the best yet. Posted on 1 May
18ft Skiffs: Julian Bethwaite, Did It All
An incredible record of achievement as a designer, builder and competitor Julian Bethwaite has an incredible record of achievement in 18ft Skiff Racing as a designer, builder and competitor in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Posted on 21 Apr
Bob Holmes, a truly great champion
Five times JJ Giltinan world champion and five times Australian champion The recent death of Robert Joseph (Bob) Holmes was the passing of one of the truly great Australian 18ft Skiff champions. Bob was five times JJ Giltinan world champion and five times Australian champion over a ten year career in the class. Posted on 8 Apr
Ian Humphries views on 18ft Skiff
Still the most spectacular fleet on the Harbour I loved John Curnow's article on the 18s last week with the spotlight on Michael Coxon. I agree the 18s are still the most spectacular fleet on the Harbour too. Posted on 2 Apr
Whispering Jack
Unabashedly, this title does refer to the Aussie singing icon, John Farnham Unabashedly, this title does wholeheartedly refer to the Aussie singing icon, John Farnham. Not that our subject does in any way whatsoever warble in the same category. Posted on 22 Mar
18ft Skiff Queen of the Harbour
Tatiana Cardoso crowned in the annual event on Sydney Harbour In a thrilling finish, Tatiana Cardoso became the 18ft Skiff Queen of the Harbour when The Kitchen Maker-Caesarstone team of Jordan Girdis, Lachlan Doyle and Cameron McDonald came back strongly over the final lap of the course. Posted on 21 Mar
18ft Skiff Queen of the Harbour preview
One of the most important events for the Australian 18 Footers League The annual Queen of the Harbour (originally known as the 'Queen of the Waves') is one of the most important events to the Australian 18 Footers League and has a history almost as long as the League itself. Posted on 17 Mar
2021 JJ Giltinan 18ft Skiff Championship overall
More than enough interest to entertain the spectators on the final day The Smeg team of Michael Coxon, Ricky Bridge and Trent Barnabas was unbeatable for the title of 2021 JJ Giltinan 18ft Skiff champion after yesterday's Race 8 of the championship Posted on 14 Mar
Reverso Air 2021 FOOTERCoast Guard Foundation FOOTER 3McConaghy Boats 2021 - FOOTER