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JJ Giltinan 18ft Skiff Championship: Positive future looms for coveted world title

by Frank Quealey 6 Apr 22:33 PDT

The recent 18ft skiffs Winnings 2024 JJ Giltinan (world) Championship regatta had so many positive aspects that it has set up the future for the coveted 87-year-old championship to reach its greatest heights for many years.

Since the original regatta on Sydney Harbour in January 1938, some of the world's greatest sailing talent, from twenty-one nations, have challenged to become the 'world' 18 footer champion and during the first week in March 2024, twenty seven teams lined up in the hope of becoming the 75th world champion.

From the very beginning of the regatta, it became apparent that we were in for a closely-fought championship when each of the first two lengthy harbour-course races, of the nine-race series, were decided by less than 10secs.

Following nearly one-and-a-half hours of racing; Race 1 resulted in a late 3secs victory for Yandoo, which passed Andoo only a couple of hundred metres from the finish line. Race 2 resulted in a thrilling 6secs win by Andoo over a fast-finishing Rag & Famish Hotel as the two teams raced to the finish line, under spinnakers, in a 12 knot Nor-Easter breeze.

In the five races sailed over the traditional 18 footer championship courses, spectators were treated to some of the best racing possible on Sydney Harbour as the flying skiffs reached top speed on the long spinnaker runs in prevailing North-East and Southerly winds, varying from 12 to 20+ knots, during the regatta.

After six days of action-packed racing, over four traditional harbour courses and four short-courses, it came down to a 'match race' situation between Yandoo and Rag & Famish Hotel, with only two points separating the two teams as they lined up in the final race, over a traditional course, in a 12-15 knot North East wind.

Yandoo's team of Micah Lane, Fang Warren and Lewis Brake won the championship, but spectators who watched the racing were also winners.

Aside from the great racing for the overall victory and the spectacular spinnaker action throughout the regatta, it is the future prospects for the world's greatest 18 footer championship which has supporters talking about what we just witnessed at the Winnings 2024 JJ Giltinan Championship.

When Covid struck during the 2020 regatta it not only brought an untimely end to the three consecutive winning streak of New Zealand's David McDiarmid and his Honda Marine team, it also put further kiwi challenges on hold until 2024.

Germany's challenge by Heinrich von Bayern's Black Knight was also derailed for one season and had it not been for Queensland's Dave Hayter, the 2021 regatta would have been little more than a club race.

With those dark days now well in the past, Germany (5th), New Zealand (6th) and Queensland (8th) came roaring back into prominence in 2024 and all three areas were represented in the top eight placegetters overall.

Along the way, Black Knight finished in the top-7 in seven of the nine races. The young AASCC (NZ) team, led by Eli Liefting, recorded a best race podium finish (3rd) in Race 8 and Dave Hayter's Big Foot Bags & Covers had 2nd and 3rd placings in Races 6 and 7 respectively.

Each of the three teams were improving consistently throughout the regatta and are sure to come back in 2025 with an even bigger challenge to the best of the locals.

Adding even more excitement to the future prospects of the JJs is the incredible potential and confidence of two 16-year-old stars, who are already making a big mark on the high end of the fleet.

Both Jacob Marks and Joel Beashel showed their ability when they were in first and second place, battling for the lead in a 12-15 knot North East breeze, on the first windward leg to the weather mark in Race 9 of the worlds.

Each has been highly successful in the 29er class before their 18 footer successes, but their individual progression in the 18s has taken a vastly different path.

Marks skippered The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines throughout the entire 2023-24 season in which 'The Oak' won the Spring Championship and finished 12th overall in the Giltinan Championship. Beashel has 'filled in' on the 2023 champion Andoo on a number of occasions and clearly shows he is completely at ease.

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