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16' Skiff Nationals return to Gosford

by Gosford Sailing Club 27 Mar 2021 23:57 PDT 2-5 April 2021
Red Pumps skiffs © Gosford Sailing Club

The Gosford Sailing Club is proud to be hosting the Red Pumps 2021 16' skiff National titles for the first time since 1982. After a Covid forced postponement, the Nats are set to take place on Brisbane Water April 2nd to 5th, 2021.


Sailing historians will remember the GSC's link to 16's which dates back to the club's very beginnings, but for those who are unaware of the connection between the GSC and 16's, let us look back.

16 foot skiffs are ingrained into the heritage of the Gosford Sailing Club going back prior to WWII. During the 1940's the club focussed on 16 foot skiffs as their premier class driven by club stalwart Ron Thompson. Thommo championed the class well into the latter half of the century and the GSC produced many highly competitive sailors during that time.

The GSC's first Easter regatta after WWII in 1944-45 played host to the 16 foot skiffs Northern Zone championships with forty five boats from seven clubs represented. In addition, the regatta included thirteen VJ's, and most of the Gosford Sailing Club's activities during the period featured these two classes.

The Easter regattas were a must on the calendar for skiffies and were as social as they were competitive, with crews encouraged to make camp in the park's grounds adjacent to the GSC clubhouse. In peak times during the 1950's and 60's the GSC Easter regattas could attract up to seventy 16' skiffs and ninety VJ's.

Glory days

Fast forward twenty odd years to the 16 footer nationals of 1982 whereby the GSC was heavily represented in the class with a record twenty two boats registered at the Gosford club.

Best result for the locals in the 1982 nationals was that of the Turner brothers Michael (skipper age 17) and older brothers Paul and Steve who placed second. The Turners had previously won a heat of the Sprint Nationals in Cairns in 1978, with young Michael skipper at the age of 13 at the time. In fact, Michael went on to be one of the most competitive 16' skiff sailors of the 1980's and worked on class innovations such as an 18 footer type bow sprit, consulting with the then 18' footer world champion Rob Brown and Andrew Buckland. At the time, the retractable bow sprit spinnaker pole was quite controversial, but it paved the way for the modern-day design rule.

The Gosford club was strongly represented during the period by some of our greatest sailors including former State title winner Neil MacDonald with Brian Atkins, Cline Gowland, Michael and Dave Law and too many others to mention. Hardly a day goes by at the GSC boatshed without discussions of the 16 footer glory days, when at it's peak in the early 1980's the Gosford Sailing Club had up to 22 boats registered for the class. Whilst researching for this article I wondered how memories might play on accomplishments of the past and think, "The older I get, the better I was".

Current links to the GSC

As a strong junior development club, the GSC has produced many great young sailors that have gone on to excel in the 16 footers class and this trend continues through to today. This includes the likes of the Turner brothers, Brett Van Munster, Kieran Humphries and recent champions Henry Makin and James Doran. Through the GSC's development programs, we aim to create more future class champions and with local knowledge, we hope to see some 2021 results favour our members.

Reigning 16 footer Australian Champion Daniel "Ruffy" Turner is a former Gosford junior and a third generation 16's skipper. Daniel's brother Joe, the 2017-2018 Australian Champion (both are now sailing out of Manly) has also carried the Turner name proudly in the class.

16 foot skiffs are without doubt the enduring class and members young and old will be pleased to see them return to Gosford this coming Easter.

More information here

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