In consistent rain, a brief thunderstorm, low visibility and light winds, the inaugural Australian 18 Footers League 18ft Skiff Supercup races got underway in poor sailing conditions, but as the weather improved and the breeze freshened, the three-race series of windward-return short courses on Sydney Harbour on Friday evening was spectacular.
The return to the 18s by many past JJ Giltinan (world) champions was a highlight of the series and showed that legends of the class still had a great feel for the skiffs.
Six-time JJ Giltinan champion, Trevor Barnabas, was outstanding and reminded spectators of his ability to pick the wind shifts, as he skippered the Smeg team, with Ricky Bridge and Mike McKensey, to victory in two of the three races'
In the opening race, over two laps, John Winning (2000 JJ Giltinan winner), Mike Kennedy and Luke Parkinson (Yandoo) took an early lead and increased her lead to score a good win over a fast-finishing 2004 JJ champ Rob Greenhalgh (Finport Finance), which narrowly finished ahead of Smeg.
Yandoo continued to impress on the first leg of the course in Race 2, but couldn't match the windward speed of Smeg and Finport Finance and fell back to third place, ahead of Vintec (Dan Phillips), Triple M (David Witt) and Winning Group (Seve Jarvin).
With Smeg and Yandoo equal on points going into the final race over four laps of the course, the breeze freshened which seemed to prove a big advantage for the Smeg team.
Once again, Smeg won the race to the windward mark to lead Winning Group by 10 seconds, followed by The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines (Lee Knapton), and Finport Finance.
Smeg was still 10 seconds ahead at the windward mark on the following lap of the course with Winning Group and The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines alongside each other.
As the race progressed, Smeg edged further ahead of the other pair, while Finport Finance retained fourth place and The Kitchen Maker-Caesarstone (Steve Quigley) fifth.
A big change came over the race at the bottom mark on the third lap when The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines capsized and Winning Group lost all chance when the team had spinnaker problems as the crew battled to round the mark.
Many longtime supporters were vividly reminded of the 18ft Skiff talent of Trevor Barnabas, as the highly efficient Smeg team proved too good on the day.
The event was a great success, in spite of the dreadful conditions, so looks certain to become a fixture on the Australian 18 Footer League's calendar
Sunday, 16 December, is Race 4 of the NSW Championship. The club's spectator ferry will follow all the racing action, leaving Double Bay Public Wharf, alongside the clubhouse, at 2pm. It is the final race before the Christmas-New Year period, with racing resuming on Sunday, 13 January 2019.
For those who can't make it onto the water, live streaming of each race: https://www.18footers.com.au/18-footers-sailing/18-footers-tv/
All information: www.18footers.com