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18ft Skiffs: The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines

by Frank Quealey 12 Sep 2020 22:53 PDT
The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines and Sydney Harbour traffic action in 2018-2019 © Frank Quealey

The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines 18ft Skiff Team, led by Aron Everett, was one of the most consistent performers in the Australian 18 Footers League's fleet on Sydney Harbour last season, and will line up again in 2020-2021 ready to continue their high standard when the club's new season begins on Sunday, October 11.

Everett will again be joined by Courtney Mahar (sheet hand) and Charlie Gundy (for'ard hand), and believes that the combination will be even better. "Having the same team is a huge benefit as we work on what we developed last season."

As the new season approaches, the team went for the first practice sail and expectations are very positive.

According to Everett, "Expectations for the season are to maintain the consistency that we showed last season, while pushing further to the front of the fleet. We were nipping at the heels of the top crews last year, so it would be good to get ourselves into that top group regularly."

The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines achieved excellent results in the team's first season together.

Following two moderate performances in the first two races of the seven-race Spring Championship, 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

Only the experienced Winning Group crew of John Winning Jr., Seve Jarvin and Sam Newton got the better of The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines in the NSW Championship before the new team finished a very good fifth in the Australian Championship, behind three former champions.

The crew was clearly improving each week as Aron, Courtney and Charlie were challenging their more experienced rivals for the lead in championship races leading up to the Giltinan Championship.

After such a strong season, it was then a disappointing finale for the team when it managed only a 17th placing in the major regatta.

Unfortunately, the COVID 19 pandemic struck in the middle of the championship which forced administrators to radically change the regatta format and race schedule to successfully complete the 2020 series of nine races.

The revised format affected several teams. The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines was one of them.

Aron Everett explains, "We didn't get the results we were hoping for in the JJs. The lessons we have taken from that are, we are strong in the longer harbour races, where we have time to work our way through the fleet if we have a slow start or bad first work."

"The COVID issues led to several days with multiple sprint races, which highlighted the importance of getting out of the blocks early and consolidating from there. Sprints make it very hard to recover from a position deep in a large fleet!"

Confirming Aron's belief, The Oak's only top ten performance in the championship was a good fifth in Race 2, which was one of only two races sailed over the full championship-style course on Sydney Harbour.

Aron's occupation as an airline pilot with QANTAS, which requires clear thinking and attention to detail, obviously helps his role as team leader of a high-performing 18ft Skiff team in a top quality fleet.

The 2020-2021 Season will be Aron's fourth as a skipper in the 18s after previously sailing as sheet hand on skiffs skippered by Jonathan Whitty.

Aron has nothing but praise for his two team-mates on The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines. "I was lucky to get someone of Courtney's calibre on the sheet four years ago, then last season Charlie fitted straight into the crew with his outstanding ability in the bow."

"The guys worked well together last season and did a great job each week. It's why we managed to post some strong results."

Courtney and Charlie, who are both very competitive sailors and enjoy the competition in the 18s, are just as impressed with Aron as the team's skipper.

Courtney claims, "Az is cool and calm", while Charlie says, "sailing with Aron and Courtney was awesome last season. They are both fun mates to sail with and I'm looking forward to the new season starting next month."

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