No wind, rain and the hint of a thunderstorm to come brought the opening day of the Historical 18 Foot Skiff 2016 Australian Championship to a halt on Sydney Harbour.
Hosted by the Sydney Flying Squadron at Kirribilli, home to the ‘Hystericals’ as they are known to those who sail them, the three-race ‘Intergalactics’ as the Championship has been dubbed, were to be sailed over today, Sunday and Monday, with one race each day.
However, as the 11-strong fleet headed out to the start area, it became clear conditions were not sailable.
John Winning and crew on Aberdare are defending champions, having won the last two successive Championships. The original Aberdare, built in 1932, won four Australian titles from 1933.
Yendys has always been Winning’s closest rival and it is skippered again by the renowned Irish yachtsman, Harold Cudmore. While leading Aberdare in the second race last year, Yendys’ tiller snapped off, and she capsized, ending Cudmore’s chances of victory.
With a strong crew, including former 18s sailor Andrew Buckland and 18 and 12ft skiff forward hand, Andrew Hay and is ocean racing wife, Sue Crafer, Cudmore should once again prove to be Aberdare’s Achilles Heel.
“We’ll be giving it our best,” said Cudmore, who has been in Sydney since mid-December getting his eye in.
Former two-time 18ft skiff champion, Phil ‘Cub’ Barnett, is at the helm of Myra Too again after finishing fourth overall in 2015, sailing the replica of the great Bill Barnett’s boat. It is a family affair, as Bill and Cub’s late father, Don, were cousins and both won the J.J. Giltinan - Don in 1967 - and Bill in 1951, when he also won the NSW and Interstate Championships.
“I’ve had a great time and I’d like to try it again soon,” Cub said at the end of last year’s title.
“I didn’t come in with any high expectations. I’ve never sailed one before and I knew it would be hard. It’s harder than sailing a modern 18,” he conceded.
Having prepared last season and with a strong crew, including Adam South, who crewed for Cub to win the prestigious J.J. Giltinan 18ft Skiff Championship in 1987 and 1988, this is a team to watch.
Others in the fleet include, Alruth skippered by Robin Tickner, with his brother Jerry doing duty as bowman, while Jamie Watt is at the helm of The Scot, Ian Smith, President of the Australian Historic Sailing Skiff Association (AHSSA) is helming Britannia and Peter le Grove is skipper of Tangalooma.
For the first time in the Championship, The Mistake will be sailed by Terry Stewart, former sheethand for past skipper and immediate past SFS President, Jeremy Sharp.
*Image credit: Michael Chittenden Photography