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18ft Skiff Australian Championship: Three skippers share Yandoo's national title victory

by Frank Quealey 14 Feb 01:11 PST 14 February 2024

After winning the 2023-24 NSW 18ft skiff championship, Yandoo's owner and skipper John 'Woody' Winning was set to add the Australian Championship to his list of national and international victories despite battling a painful hip problem.

It was twenty-four years since he won his previous Australian championship in 1999-2000 as well as the 2000 JJ Giltinan world championship and a second victory in 2023-24 was definitely possible.

With typical 'Woody' determination, he was prepared to hold off on a necessary operation until after next month's Giltinan championship on Sydney Harbour but, when it became impossible, he was forced to hand over the tiller to another skipper for the rest of the season.

'Woody' will now have his surgery next Monday, 19 February.

His decision to hand over the duties came a short time before Race 1 of the nationals. The new skipper of Yandoo on the day became the 2006-07 Australian champion Micah Lane, who finished second behind Andoo, skippered by 'Woodys' son John Winning Jr.

The following week, 2018-19 Australian 18ft skiff champion, James Dorron skippered Yandoo to victory, then Tom Needham won Race 3 before Micah Lane came back for Races 4 and 5 to wrap up the championship before next Sunday's final race.

It's been a great effort by all three skippers to achieve such an 'unusual' victory and an incredible performance by sheet hand Fang Warren and bowman Lewis Brake to make sure that the team didn't lose any momentum in 'Woodys' absence.

Yandoo's three wins, a second placing and a fourth place last Sunday gives the team a total of nine points from the five races sailed to date. Regardless of next Sunday's result, Yandoo can't finish with a net total (following a discard of each team's worst performance in the series) of more than nine points while her nearest rival Harry Price's Rag & Famish Hotel already has a net total of ten points.

The net points, for the leading ten teams, going into Sunday's final race are: Yandoo on 5, Rag & Famish Hotel on 10, defending champion Finport Finance (Keagan York) 11, Vaikobi (Kirk Mitchell) 15, Andoo 16, Balmain (Henry Larkings) 19, Smeg (Nathan McNamara) 27, The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines (Jacob Marks) 32, Fisher & Paykel (Jordan Girdis) 35 and Marine Outlet (John Cooley) on 36 points.

While not surprising that the six top, most-experienced teams in the fleet presently hold the leading six placings on the leaderboard, it would be remiss not to mention the efforts of two new teams this season who are just behind the 'big six'; Smeg and The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines.

Smeg's team of Nathan McNamara, Jed Cruikshank and Jack Taylor have been extremely consistent and are in seventh place, after recording four top-ten placings from the five races sailed so far in the championship.

The eighth-placed The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines team of 16-year-old skipper Jacob Marks, team manager Alex Marinelli and Matt Doyle has been far from consistent over the five races but when at their best have been up with the big-six. In Race 3, The Oak finished on the podium (in third place) and last Sunday, in Race 5, backed it up with a fifth placing ahead of the current Giltinan world champion Andoo.

Adding some further interest to Sunday's final race of the Australian Championship is the appearance of the German Black Knight team (Heinrich von Bayern, Thomas Martin and Andy Martin) who have arrived in Australia early to prepare for the Giltinan world Championship.

The League's spectator ferry will follow the action on Sunday, leaving Double Bay Public Wharf at 2.15pm.

Tickets are available 18footers.com/18-footer-racing/spectator-ferry

If you can't get out onto Sydney Harbour, you can still watch the SailMedia Livestream camera cat coverage of all the racing action here:

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