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18-footer quality continues: Line up of champions in the League's 2023-24 fleet

by Frank Quealey 29 Jul 2023 20:45 PDT

For the past 88 years, the Australian 18 Footers League on Sydney Harbour has been the home of some of the world's greatest sailing talent and the 2023-24 season, which will begin in October, will be no exception.

How many clubs can claim an America's Cup winner (Sam Newton), a Sydney-Hobart Line Honours-winning skipper (John Winning Jr) and a Youth Match Racing World champion (Harry Price) in its fleet, along with 10 times Giltinan champion Seve Jarvin and four times winning Giltinan champion skipper Michael Coxon, and of course, the legendary Giltinan champion John 'Woody' Winning.

The club's ongoing youth policy which has been successful in producing so many champions in the past, continues to reap rewards for the class as young, talented up-and-coming sailors benefit from the League.

Henry Larkings (Balmain Slake), who won two 29er Australian Championships and placed 3rd at the 2018 Youth World Championship in the USA, and who finished the 2023 Giltinan Championship with two top-5 placings in the final two races of the regatta, is one of those champions recruited to the League's fleet over the past two seasons.

Henry has nothing but praise for the League and its policy. "The club has made it incredibly easy and welcoming and provided us with a functioning boat and all the gear, even with new sails for the season too! It made it enjoyable coming into the class."

"The club also provided support by having experienced 18 footer sailors help us to rig up for the first time and take us out on our first sails to show us the new ropes."

"Coming into our second season, we were thrilled and extremely thankful to be supported by getting a new 18 from the club."

"The environment every Sunday is extremely friendly, and there isn't anyone you can't go up to and ask a question or have a friendly chat."

"We look forward to sailing every Sunday and, without the club and our sponsor Balmain Slake, we would not have the same opportunity to sail such great boats in a very competitive fleet."

That said, former Australian Cherub champion Kirk Mitchell (Birkenhead Point Marina), Alex Marinelli (The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines) and Cam Gundy are also on the way to the top as their teams prepare for a big season in quality boats supplied by the club and their sponsors.

The high standard of individual competitors within the Australian 18 footer League's fleet has always been evident as competitors, who came up through the ranks, have gone on to greater international success in many areas of sailing.

Former 18ft skiff champions include many internationally successful competitors, designers and tacticians such as Iain Murray, Ben Lexcen, David Witt, Adrienne Cahalan, Hugh Treharne, Malcolm Page, Robert Brown, Sean Langman and members of the Beashel family.

David Witt, who was a member of the first UK/Northern Hemisphere Giltinan world champion team (Rockport) in 1999 began his 18s career at the League in the late 1980s and has had great success in ocean racing for many years.

David is a very strong supporter of the Australian 18 Footers League, "I was asked how I would describe myself as a sailor, at a press conference during the last Volvo ocean race? Simple answer is I am an 18ft skiff sailor, always was, always will be, best sailing boat on the planet."

"I sailed on the best harbour in the world out of the Double Bay Australian 18 Footer League club, which is not just close to my heart, but is part of my DNA."

"I will forever be grateful for the opportunities the class and the 18ft skiff family have given me in my life and I look forward to having an opportunity to give back to the class in my later years when the opportunity arises."

League Commodore, Simon Nearn adds, "Harry Hall, off the Rag & Famish Hotel skiff, just won the Fastnet, Jack Hildebrand, who sailed on Burrawang in Garda, also won the 49er Junior Worlds, while quite a few 18 sailors are about to compete in the 49er Worlds. We also have Moth sailors and Sail GP crew in our fleet this season and many are heading up to Southport on the big boats."

The 2023-24 season will begin on Sunday October 8 when the Australian 18 Footers League conducts Race 1 of the Spring Championship and Race 1 of the Season Point Score.

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