18ft Skiffs – An unsponsored team challenges for the title

The present leaderboard at the 2023-24 NSW 18ft skiff Championship is unclear because of a complicated protest, relating to last Sunday’s Race 4, which is due to be held prior to next Sunday’s two races in the series on Sydney Harbour. 

One thing which is certain not to change, is that the unsponsored Put Your Name Here team will remain in second place just seven points behind Yandoo at the half way point in the championship. 

Provisionally, subject to the protest result, Yandoo, skippered by John ‘Woody’ Winning, leads with a total of six points, followed by Put Your Name Here on 13, current Giltinan champion Andoo on 16, Rag & Famish Hotel on 22, Finport Finance 24 and Smeg on 30. 

The young crew of Put Your Name Here, Kirk Mitchell (skipper), Andrew Stephenson (sheet) and Daniel Barnett (bow) came together in the 2022-23 season and performed so well in an ageing skiff that the Australian 18 Footers League provided them with a brand new hull and several new sails for the current season. 

All three are friends, team mates and, at times, competitors who came through the classes together at Drummoyne SC, which probably explains their successful combination together in the demanding 18s. 

Kirk and Andrew also teamed to win the Australian Cherub Championship while Daniel (from the famous Giltinan world championship-winning Barnett family) already had two seasons in the 18s with Kirk before Andrew joined them in 2022-23. 

The team is playing down its success so far and is naturally looking towards the Giltinan World championship on Sydney Harbour in March.  According to Kirk, “We are working hard to improve our performances and our consistency over the next three months.  It’s so important to be consistent if you want to have a successful championship regatta.” 

When an expected sponsorship fell over prior to the start of the season it was a setback for the team as the crew battled to prepare the new boat. 

After a slow start to the season over the first three races, the team has gone from strength-to-strength as the crew’s hard work on shore is being rewarded by some top class race results. 

Four weeks ago, Put Your Name Here led the fleet for the entire course until a gear problem at the top of the boat’s mast robbed the team of their first victory; going down by just 10s to Smeg. 

In the four races conducted so far in the NSW Championship, the 17-boat fleet has been subjected to light, fluctuating breeze conditions on day one then strong southerly winds (up to 30knots) last Sunday on day two. PYNH’s four placings in the four races are one second placing, two third placings and one fifth placing. 

Last Sunday’s extreme conditions took a toll on the fleet as the wind strength continued to increase as the day’s racing went ahead.  It was so strong that officials were forced to reduce the length of the second race by one complete lap of the course. 

The bonus to competitors able to keep their boat’s above water was the amazing rides they experienced on the wild spinnaker runs across Sydney Harbour in 30 knots of wind, and the bonus for spectators on hand, or those watching the livestream video coverage, was one of the most spectacular, action-packed sporting events. 

The Yandoo, Finport Finance, Balmain and Andoo teams, along with Put Your Name Here, were prominent on the day with some extremely spectacular speed racing, but there were also some very good performances by Burrawang-Young Henrys, Rag & Famish Hotel and Smeg. 

Another one of the very good performances was the seventh place in Race 4 by the Shaw and Partners Financial Services team, which is currently in eighth place overall. 

30 knots of southerly wind on a wild Sydney Harbour in an 18ft skiff is one of the most demanding tasks for any sailor to contemplate, but when the skipper of Shaw and Partners Financial Services is a twenty four-year-old, 163cm tall female named Emma Rankin, who weighs just 62kg, and was having only her 11th race in an 18ft skiff, her performance was amazing. 

It’s not surprising that Emma Rankin was recently voted Seahorse magazine’s ‘Sailor of the Month’, as she reminds me of another great female 18 footer skipper of the late 1980s-early 1990s, Adrienne Cahalan. 

The early forecast for Sunday afternoon is an 18 knots Southerly breeze which is similar to what had been predicted for last Sunday.  If the prediction is correct, this time, and we don’t get the damaging winds of last Sunday, we are in for a real treat as the racing throughout the fleet has been very close since the season began in October. 

Subject to the protest result, provisional progress point scores, after Day Two, are:  

6    Yandoo  

13  Put Your Name Here 

16  Andoo 

22  Rag & Famish Hotel 

24  Finport Finance 

30  Smeg 

32  Fisher & Paykel 

33  Shaw and Partners Financial Services 

36  Marine Outlet 

37  Burrawang-Young Henrys 

40  Balmain 

43  The Kitchen Maker 

51  The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines 

54  Sixt 

57  Lazarus 

68  18 Footers Bar & Restaurant 

69  Noakes Red 

There are four more races to be sailed (two windward-leeward races each day) over the next two Sundays.  Each team will then discard their worst performance, after the eighth race, to determine its final total.  

Don’t forget, the regular spectator ferry is back in action as it has been for the past 88 years, and will leave Rose Bay Public Wharf (old wharf) next Sunday at 2pm 

For those unable to get the spectator ferry, you can still join the Australian 18 Footers League’s ‘Alternative Ferry’ in the League’s clubhouse and enjoy all the racing action LIVE on the massive screen broadcasting the SailMedia Livestream camera cat coverage of the racing, and there will be special drinks and food offers for those attending who wish to support their favourite team.         

It’s a really unique way to celebrate the great racing we have seen at the start of the 2023-24 season.  

If you can’t get out onto Sydney Harbour to see the action-packed racing, or come to the club’s ‘Alternative’ Ferry’, you can catch it LIVE by going to 

Frank Quealey

Australian 18 Footers League Ltd.

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