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18ft Skiffs: The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines

by Frank Quealey 18 May 22:19 PDT

One of the real highlights of the Australian 18 Footer League's 2023-24 Sydney Harbour season was the outstanding performance of the young, rookie team on The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines from the opening Spring Championship series in October until the JJ Giltinan Championship in March.

Skippered by the then 16-year-old The Scots College student Jacob Marks, with former skipper Alex Marinelli on the sheet and Matt Doyle in the bow, The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines won the six-race Spring Championship series by one point from John Winning's Yandoo with Fisher & Paykel (Jordan Girdis) a further two points back.

In the JJ Giltinan (World) Championship, competing in a 27-boat fleet of experienced teams from five countries, the young team finished 12th after recording seven top-10 placings in the nine-race regatta. In the final race of the championship, the team actually led the fleet to within 100 metres of the weather mark after the long North-East leg from Clark Island to the Beashel Buoy.

This is a young team with obvious talent and, given the right opportunity, will have a good future in the class and be a top performer in the Australian 18 Footers League's fleet on Sydney Harbour.

Alex Marinelli, the driving force behind the establishing and management of The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines team, got into the 18s in the 2020-21 season, and recalls: "I was on the sheet with Tom Cunich and Flynn Twomey, sailing Vintec. Over the next two seasons I ended up driving, firstly on the Appliancesonline with Darcy McKracken and Tyler Creevey, then getting The Royal Oak the following season with Darcy and Matt Doyle"

"By the end of the 2022-23 season I got a bit tired of steering, so during the off season I thought I should find a big skipper and I could hop on the sheet. I asked Jacob, now close to 90kg, if he wanted to drive and he said yes and that's how we ended up with our current program."

According to Alex, "It was a pretty interesting story about how we got Jacob on the team. I had previously coached him in The Scots College sailing program for many years and he was showing marked improvement, especially when he moved into the 29er class."

"We both filled in on the Noakes Blue 16 footer together with Dave Ewings (who also started sailing 18s at 16 years old, with David Witt) for a day at the Botany Bay States in 2022. It was a 20 knot Nor-Easter with run out tide and he was very solid on the helm and we held our own in the top pack."

"At the 2023 Super Cup Legends race, Michael Coxon was due to skipper my boat but wasn't able to attend as he had Covid. The League allowed us to sail anyway. Jacob was heading down to watch the racing so I asked if he wanted to fill in on the sheet. We struggled and battled a bit so for the last race of the series we decided to swap with Jacob helming and me on the sheet."

"We had a pretty good race and ended up coming third, beating many top 18ft skiff champions with 15-year-old Jacob on his debut."

During the Australian winter of 2023, Jacob and his Scots College school mate Ben Crafoord went to Weymouth (UK) and contested the 29er World Championship, finishing seventh overall in the gold fleet, after winning five of the seven races in the International 29er Q Series just before the worlds.

Three months later, Jacob was skipper of The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines 18ft skiff in the opening race of the Spring Championship, which the team won. The crew performed very well during the 2023-24 season but comments from the individual team members suggest that they are expecting more in the upcoming 2024-25 season.

Alex: "We performed well with a very left-of-field combination which allowed us to take the Spring Championships and have some good scratch performances too. It took us a bit to find our feet with mishaps, such as capsizes and breakages, in a few races, but finished the JJs relatively consistently."

Jacob, commenting on his first season in the 18s, "We're relatively happy with how our first season went. After a good start by winning the spring series, we missed some opportunities over Christmas and early January, however we felt we had some good momentum and form leading into the JJs that allowed us to perform consistently in the mix. Unfortunately we didn't have enough standout races to place highly."

"Sailing 18s are a great experience and unlike really any other racing I've done in the past. With a background in one design classes such as the 29er and currently the 49er, I have carried over many of the necessary racing skills that make up the 18s."

"A highlight is the asymmetrical courses and the rig and sail development that goes on. There's very few classes in the world where there is this layer to racing. I feel as it enriches it as there are so many areas that you can look for gains in compared to one design."

Bowman Matt Doyle, who had his fifth seasons in the 18s and sixth JJ's after getting a call up, as a teen sailing in the 16s, to fill in with Katie Love on Lumix: "It's great we found our feet quickly as a new combination. Crew consistency and time sailing together are important performance factors in the 18s, and we feel we gelled well as a team from very early on."

Jacob is a phenomenal young man and a great sailor who has taken on the challenge of sailing 18s at such a young age and has made it look easy at times. Alex and I already had great chemistry from our previous season together, and we felt Jacob fit into the team perfectly which allowed us to put up some great results in our first season together."

Expectations are high for 2024-25 as Alex says, "Our goal is to definitely start being more competitive with the strong youth teams coming through from the local fleet as well as from Queensland and New Zealand. It was great to be upgraded with a new big rig at the start of last season and hopefully the stars align our way and we can procure some newer equipment to help push us up to the front of the fleet."

"It is good to see such interest in the class for Jacob's generation and I am keen to see other guys I have coached over the years, such as Ben Crafoord and Max Nearn, keen to make their mark on the class."

Matt Doyle adds, "I am excited about next season and we are looking to take a big step forward already as a team and consistently push into the top of the fleet."

"We are grateful to the League for receiving a new #2 rig which should help us to be more competitive with that rig, and we are hoping to get into a newer hull within the next two seasons, which should also help us with a bit more boat speed."

Anyone wanting to look at the team's performances during the 2023-24 season, video coverage of all the action from the Winnings 2024 JJ Giltinan Championship plus all the club's racing throughout the entire Australian 18 Footers League's 2023-24 season, which is available on the following link: 18footers.com/18-footer-racing/18-footers-tv

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