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18 Foot Historical Skiff Australian Championship - Winning in style
Aberdare flew around the course and could not be caughtMichael Chittenden

18 Foot Historical Skiff Australian Championship

18 Foot Skiff Australian Championship 2016- Defending Historical 18 Foot Skiff 2016 Australian champion, John Winning and his crew on Aberdare took out the first race of the 2016 Championship on Sydney Harbour in a runaway victory this afternoon.

Even before the Sydney Flying Squadron hosted race started, the money was on Winning’s crew, as all know how much he enjoys a big breeze, and that is what the fleet sailed in today, a big gusty south-easterly that averaged around 20 knots, but did not reach the predicted 30 knots and the rain stayed away.

Top Weight, skippered by David Swales did not even make the start line before capsizing, ending his crew’s day, leaving 10 boats to fight for the spoils in the three-race series.

Alruth, steered by Robin Tickner, was away best at the pin end of the line, while Aberdare was mid-line, but shot off quickly and did not look back. By the first mark, Winning had a two minute lead as his crew hoisted a spinnaker for the first run down the Harbour.

Harold Cudmore gave chase at the helm of Yendys, with a guest crew on Australia IV, helmed by David ‘Witty’ Witt, in hot pursuit of both. Witt has sailed the Historical 18 one other time, but his 18 foot skiff and Ragamuffin crew were all virgins to the class. Alruth and Myra, helmed by Phil ‘Cub’ Barnett were next, but already some minutes behind the top three.

Heading to the next mark of the course, Alruth’s spinnaker tore beyond repair and they were unable to round the mark, driving straight past it and having to come back to round, as Myra and Tangalooma overtook her.

Further around the course, Aberdare continued to extend her lead and never looked like being headed, as the breeze faded and returned with big gusts throughout. Behind, Yendys was holding her own, but Witt found some extra speed in Australia IV and overtook Yendys. Cudmore set a spinnaker, but it went up slowly with a wineglass and took them of course.

Australia IV sailed away from the boat they had been match racing all day, to finish second behind Aberdare, with Yendys taking third place.

“This was my sort of day – I love sailing these boats in a big breeze,” confirmed Winning, who has won the last two Championships.

“It’s imperative to get everything right on a day like this. The balance of the crew and sails has to be right – they are a hard boat to sail at any time,” he conceded.

18 Foot Historical Skiff Australian Championship - Winning in style

Yendys and Australia IV battling it out for second and thirdMichael Chittenden

Witt and crew were rightly happy with their second place. “Yeah, that was a good day for us. The hard part is remembering which sails to put up – there are so many of them,” he said.

“It’s certainly different sailing with seven people (in the Historical 18) than in the modern 18 footer,” added Witt, referring to appliancesonline.com.au, the three-crew modern 18 footer he races each Sunday, which ironically is sponsored by John Winning’s son.

Will he try to turn the tables on Winning (Yandoo) in tomorrow’s modern 18 footers race? “Yeah, we’ll be trying to reverse the results, but it looks like it’ll be light tomorrow, which will be right up Woody’s alley,” ended Witt who took out Race 1 of the Australian Championship two weeks ago among other wins this season.

Winning agreed. “I’m better in the lighter winds in the modern boat these days, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Racing for the Historical 18 Footers Australian Championship, organised by the Australian Historical Sailing Skiff Association in conjunction with the Australian Open Skiff Trust, recommences on Monday at 4pm. Due to racing on the opening day being abandoned, a further race will be sailed next Saturday to complete the series.

by Di Pearson

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