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Harry Price and The Rag - A winning 18 footer combination

by Frank Quealey 5 Oct 06:48 PDT
George Calligeros sit back and watches his skiff at the start of a championship race © Frank Quealey

One of the highlights of the Australian 18 Footers League's 2021-22 season was the performance of the talented rookie Rag & Famish Hotel team of Harry Price, Josh McKnight and Harry Hall against the world's best and most experienced teams in the 18s.

Now, the team is about to take the next step towards its aim at becoming world #1 in 2022-23 with the acquisition of a brand new Van Munster hull for the League's upcoming season, which begins on October 16, with the annual Spring Championship.

There was never any doubt about the team's ability to adapt to the extremely difficult boats, but to achieve the success it did, throughout a tough season of predominantly strong southerly winds during 2021-22, was outstanding and certainly marked it down as a potential Giltinan World champion outfit.

The team's third place in the 2022 Giltinan World Championship on Sydney Harbour in March showed the level of it's ability, however it only re-enforced the knowledge of followers who had seen what happened earlier in the season when a severe storm hit Sydney during a race in the NSW Championship.

When the storm hit on the afternoon of Sunday, December 19, causing major damage right across the city, it whipped up strong WNW winds which produced extreme conditions for the teams competing mid-way through the League's championship race.

The young Rag & Famish Hotel team was one of only a few which survived (without a capsize) when a 30+ knot squall battered the race course as the fleet was racing downwind on the long spinnaker run from Kurraba Point on the northern side of the harbour to the bottom mark in Rose Bay on the south.

Rag & Famish Hotel raced to victory from the four-time JJ Giltinan World 18ft skiff champion Michael Coxon, and his Smeg team.

Another former Giltinan World champion, John 'Woody' Winning led the race to the top mark at Kurraba Point, in Yandoo, with Michael Coxon's team only metres behind Yandoo, as the pair began an incredibly exciting spinnaker dash at the peak of the squall.

Unfortunately for both the Yandoo and Smeg teams their flying spinnaker runs each ended in capsize only metres apart in the middle of Sydney Harbour. Each crew could then do little but watch as the then third-placed Rag & Famish Hotel sped past them to ultimately go on and win the race.

It was an amazing result for the young Rag & Famish Hotel team and provided the lucky spectators on-board the League's spectator ferry to a close-up look at high-speed, action-packed, 18ft Skiff racing by some of the world's most talented skiff sailors.

Since that brilliant victory, Price and his team finished third in the 2022 Giltinan World Championship, on Sydney Harbour, in March then second in the Mark Foy International Trophy regatta on Lake Garda, Italy in July.

The crew members of the Rag & Famish Hotel team may be relatively new to the 18s but the team's sponsor certainly is not. The new season will be the 27th year of continuous sponsorship by the Rag & Famish Hotel in partnership with the Australian 18 Footers League.

The Rag & Famish Hotel has been a successful sponsor of the 18 Footers on Sydney Harbour since the 1996-97 Season, but the hotel and the sport of 18 Footers racing have more in common than simply being the combination of a sport and a sponsor.

Both the North Sydney hotel and the iconic Australian sport go back into the 19th Century and remain prominent features of Sydney today.

The 18 Footers has long been a sport with a strong family tradition and, since the late George Calligeros purchased 'The Rag' in May 1975, the hotel has developed equally strong family values as Peter and Anna Calligeros continue the business under the Calligeros Hotel group banner.

It was even a family situation which brought the two identities together in the 1990s when Peter Calligeros began sailing on an 18 with Anthony (Jack) Young and Charlie Diekman in the 1996-97 season, and the skiff carried a Rag & Famish Hotel name and logo for the first time.

According to Peter Calligeros, "Dad got the taste of victory in him and wanted to win the JJs, so we got punted and David Gibson became the skipper."

In 1999-2000, John Harris became the new skipper for Rag & Famish Hotel and George realised his dream of 'The Rag' winning the JJs, when John Harris, Craig Ferries and Chris Cleary won the Giltinan World Championship on Sydney Harbour in 2001.

In those early years of sponsorship, George Calligeros was a regular in the Double Bay Park rigging area, speaking with his crew, then following the team as an on-the-water supporter, from the cockpit of 'Bonito'.

George would sit, with a beer in hand, watching his crew go around the track and screaming at the top of his lungs "Go The Rag" - a phrase that is still heard from the spectator fleet today.

One problem for George was eyesight. He was concerned that he couldn't always see where his boat was on the track, so he soon solved that problem when The Rag started carrying a bright fluro-yellow spinnaker, which could be seen all over Sydney Harbour.

Fortunately, George got to see his dream of winning a JJ Giltinan world Championship before he passed away in 2005, but his memory is still large at each Giltinan Championship regatta when the George Calligeros Memorial trophy is presented to the winning team of Race 1 in the championship.

Once the 2022-23 season gets under way on October 16, spectators can follow the action on board the club's spectator ferry, as they have done for the past 87 years. Booking online through the club's website 18footers.com is essential, 18footers.com/18-footer-racing/spectator-ferry

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