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Patrick Corrigan, AM - Long-time 18ft Skiff sponsorship

by Frank Quealey 19 Apr 2023 00:23 PDT
Patrick Corrigan, AM © Frank Quealey

Anyone with an interest in sport knows that some level of sponsorship is essential for the success of an individual, a team, or an organising body.

The iconic Australian 18 footer class has been fortunate to have had many wonderful sponsorship supporters since the first major sponsor, TraveLodge Hotels, in 1965.

The most unique has been Mr. Patrick Corrigan, AM.

Patrick is an Australian businessman, focused mainly in the freight industry, is an art collector, jazz enthusiast and philanthropist, who was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia medal in the 2000 Queen's Birthday Honours List.

Fortunately for Sydney 18ft Skiff Racing, Patrick's love of the sport benefited the 18s many years.

His first became involved in 1969 when he sponsored Vic Robinson's previously unsponsored four-handed boat which was soon re-named Corrigans Express, and contested the 1969 World Championship on Sydney Harbour.

It came at a time when fleet numbers and development to maintain the high standards in the 18s, was heavily dependent on the sponsorship dollars from corporations and individuals.

Patrick's support continued early in the 1970s with another skiff for Vic Robinson, then another boat, branded Express Livestock for a young up-and-coming team, was added to become a two-boat sponsorship program.

His wonderful support of the class continued throughout the 1970s with a series of skiffs named Mitchell Cotts Freight for a variety of skippers.

The 1970s was an incredible decade for the 18 footer class with up to 40 boats competing each weekend at either the NSW (now Australian) 18 Footers League or Sydney Flying Squadron and some of the greatest-ever skiff sailors guiding them around the harbour courses.

Towards the end of the decade, the construction materials used for the hulls changed, from timber to a honeycomb core sandwiched between layers of carbon fibre cloth on each side, materials which were very expensive and for the first time in the decade.

Around the same time, the TraveLodge Hotels sponsorship came to an end.

John 'Woody' Winning was the corporation's skipper, sailing Pacific Harbour Fiji, at the time and was a strong contender to challenge the might of Iain Murray and his Color 7 team.

Patrick Corrigan was quick to recognise Woody's potential and sponsored him to a new skiff, named Mitchell Cotts, for the following three seasons, 1981-82 to 1983-84.

As costs rose dramatically during the 1980s, Patrick was obviously pressed to continue his personal sponsorship at a high level he wanted but showed his business acumen when he put a multi-sponsor combination of individual corporations together in his quest to win the World Championship.

His boat raced as Southern Cross with the logos of all individual sponsors featured on the mainsails and spinnakers. Rob Brown was the skipper and the boat contested the 1988 World Championship on Sydney Harbour.

A complicated rule was introduced for the 1987-88 Season, which related to what was declared a new or previously used sail. The intent was to try and restrict escalating costs in the sport as fleets were dwindling.

Unfortunately, the rules created confusion and a controversial protest was lodged which led to a decision to declare Southern Cross and Chesty Bond (Trevor Barnabas) joint champions.

Patrick was never really satisfied with the 'shared' victory and continued his sponsorship support of young sailors during the early 1990s in an attempt to win the championship outright.

David Witt and Anthony Young went close to giving Patrick the outright victory he wanted so badly, but it wasn't until Stephen Quigley skippered AEI-Pace Express in 1996 before Patrick finally achieved his goal of winning the World 18 footer Championship outright.

Stephen Quigley recalls. "We had a fabulous relationship with Pat that extended beyond the 18 footers. He was a true gentleman, a really interesting guy and an accomplished international businessman. A visit to his office or home was an incredible insight into the world of modern art."

"We'd had a great season winning all the major regattas in the lead up to the JJs and being only our second year in the 18s, we were happy to be competitive at the top end of the fleet."

"It was a really tight regatta with Trevor Barnabas in the Omega Smeg-2UE and Jack Young sailing a new Nokia, which was launched a few weeks prior to the regatta."

"It came down to a last race shoot-out between the three boats and I asked Pat if he was coming down to watch the last race. He said he was too nervous and would rather wait at home for the call."

"It was amazing to hear the excitement in his voice when I called him after the last race to tell him we'd won the JJ Trophy and he was absolutely thrilled."

Having achieved his goal, was it time for Patrick to pull the pin?

No way, he was a true, loyal supporter of 18ft Skiff Racing and continued to sponsor people like US champion Howie Hamlin, Emery Worldwide, into the early 2000s.

So why did Patrick continue to sponsor 18ft Skiffs for more than 30 years? His simple answer, "It's a three letter word - FUN."

"I sponsor a number of different things in sport as well as the arts. The reason I do it is simple, I like to have fun."

"I've always had fun sponsoring the 18s and enjoyed watching the skiffs. It was also a good way to give the company's staff an interest outside the day-to-day workplace."

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