18ft Skiffs – Dave Hayter, Queensland

Brisbane 18 footers sailing is fortunate to have someone like David Hayter heading up the efforts to return Queensland to its former glory days in Australia’s iconic sailing class. 

David Hayter, a four-times Australian International 14ft Skiff champion, who will be contesting his sixth JJ Giltinan World Championship in March 2024, is leading a group of young sailors determined to get a Queensland name back on a championship winner’s list. 

According to David, “We are sending the same teams as last year to the JJs.  Big Foot Bags and Covers, myself, Ben Roxburgh and Elliot Mahar, and C-tech, Josh Sloman, George Morton and Angus Barker.” 

“Unfortunately with the Australian titles spread out over so many weekends we will not be coming down for that.” 

David had a new hull built by Van Munster Boatbuilders for his campaign at the 2023 Giltinan and suffered with a lack of hard racing in the new boat prior to the regatta.  With more time and the same crew in 2024, David and his team expect to get a better overall result with more consistency over the nine races. 

“The Brisbane teams have been working reasonably hard, completing some upgrades to C-tech so that the boats are closely matched with gear so we can focus more on boat speed and handling in preparation for the JJs.” 

Getting Queensland’s influence back to the thirty golden years between the early 1930s and the early 1960s, in reality, will be impossible as the domination of the state’s designers, boat builders and sailors during that period was incredible. 

Despite the enormity of the challenge, David Hayter is determined to give it his best shot and, with support from the Brisbane 18 footers club, has already achieved exceptional progress since he put his first Giltinan-challenging ‘Brisbane 18s’ skiff together for the 2019 regatta. 

Although severely hampered by COVID 19, the club saw an opportunity to purchase the C-tech skiff from New Zealand, and with the unanimous support of club members, completed its shift across the Tasman to become a Brisbane boat, which David, Ben and Elliot sailed at the 2023 JJs. 

When David’s team took delivery of the new Big Foot Bags and Covers for the 2022-23 season, Josh, George and Angus moved up to C-tech. 

The young C-tech team had its first taste of the major championships when they contested last season’s nationals and the Giltinan Worlds.  Despite their inexperience of sailing on the vastly different Sydney Harbour conditions, the crew showed enough to suggest that they could become very competitive over the next few seasons. 

Rob Brown, the three times World 18 footer champion in the 1980s, was involved in coaching the team before the 2022-23 season and had the same opinion when he stated, “These guys are young, keen and very skilful and are showing all the signs of being very competitive over the next few seasons.” 

Queensland teams won six Australian championships during the early 1900s, but costs and the difficulty of maintaining big crews in the 1930s led to the first big change in the class when a Queensland owner claimed he could build a new style 18 footer that could beat the Sydney boats. 

He was challenged to build his ‘miracle boat’ so he went back to Brisbane, where Queensland designers were applying the principles of aerodynamics to boat building and commissioned the build of the first no heel skiff type 7ft beam 18 footer, which he named Aberdare.  She had a lighter hull and smaller rig, and carried a crew of 7-8 men, compared to the 12-13 needed in the ‘big boats’. 

Aberdare lived up to its ‘miracle boat’ tag and won four consecutive Australian championships between 1933-34 and 1936-37.  Sydney owners wanted to build and register the new style boats at the Sydney Flying Squadron but when their request was denied the result changed the future of Sydney footer racing when the NSW (now Australian) 18 Footers League was formed. 

Following WW2, Queensland started rebuilding its fleet, and in 1945 decided to race 6ft beam boats.  This time the roles of the two Sydney clubs were reversed.  The League opposed the move, but it was approved by the SFS.   

The first of these 6ft beamers, which were designed by Norman Wright and Lance Watts, began to sail in Brisbane in 1946.  They were cheaper to build, lighter than the 7ft beam boats, needed only a crew of 5-6, and they were fast. 

Two Queensland skippers were dominant between 1938-39 and 1957-58.  Lance Watts and Norman Wright Jnr each won four Australian titles and Queensland won ten of the 15 titles held. 

In 1959, Norman Wright Jnr designed the first new 3-handed boat when the Brisbane club again wanted to build its fleet and asked him to design a cheap, easy to build 18.  Along with Bob Miller (later known as Ben Lexcen), the pair produced a totally new design. 

This new boat, named Taipan, was a light ply chine, two-thirds decked, with large genoa, inboard rig, no bowsprit, smaller sail area, and was designed for a crew of three with two on trapeze.  She also had heavily flared topsides and a narrow 4ft 3in beam on the chine.   

The design dominated the class into the 1960s and gave Queensland its second World 18 footer champion, Venom in 1961, but unfortunately it was the last major impact Queensland had in the 18s.  

David Hayter summed up, “The Brisbane 18 Footers Sailing Club continues to support the teams and is looking forward to the return of the days when the Australian titles were rotated, and can be held in Queensland again like the good old days.” 

The 75th JJ Giltinan Championship will be staged on Sydney Harbour from March 2-10, however, in the meantime, racing at the Australian 18 Footers League will re-commence next Sunday, January 14 when the club will conduct Race 1 of the Australian Championship. 

While Queensland will not be attending this season, the battle for victory will be as tough as ever with defending champion Finport Finance (Keagan York) under pressure from the current Giltinan champion Andoo (John Winning Jr) and the recently-crowned NSW champion Yandoo, skippered by John Winning. 

The League’s spectator ferry will follow all the action, leaving Double Bay Public Wharf at 2pm.   

Tickets are on sale https://18footers.com/18-footer-racing/spectator-ferry/  

If you prefer, you can still join the League’s ‘Alternative Ferry’ in the clubhouse and enjoy all the racing action LIVE on the massive screen broadcasting the SailMedia Livestream camera cat coverage.  It’s a really unique way to celebrate the great racing and all 18 footer supporters are welcome to come down to the clubhouse ‘Alternative Ferry’.        

If you can’t get out onto Sydney Harbour, or come to the club’s ‘Alternative’ Ferry’, you can still watch it LIVE by going to the Club’s www.18footers.com website and clicking on the TV link 

Frank Quealey

Australian 18 Footers League Ltd.

Jeanneau JY55
Cyclops Marine
M.O.S.S Australia