18ft Skiffs – NSW Championship Preview

The race towards the 2024 JJs begins this weekend

The recently completed Australian 18 Footers League Spring Championship produced some exciting fleet racing over the past six weeks and a magnificent spectacle of unbelievable spinnaker action in a 28-knot ‘black nor’easter’ last Sunday, but the race towards the 2024 JJ Giltinan World 18ft skiff Championship begins in earnest this weekend when the League conducts the first two races of the NSW Championship on Sydney Harbour. 

Pre series favourite for the 2023-24 NSW Championship is the defending champion and current JJ Giltinan World champion Andoo team of John Winning Jr, Seve Jarvin and Sam Newton, but they are sure to face a strong challenge from the reigning Australian champion Finport Finance team of Keagan York, Matt Stenta and Phil Marshall which won two of the six races in the Spring Championship. 

Former Australian 29er champion and bronze medallist at the 2018 Youth World Championship in the USA on his way to joining the 18s in 2021-22, Henry Larkings leads a young team of former 49er sailors, Fynn Sprott and Flynn Twomey, on the Balmain skiff which is improving its high speed downwind performance at every outing and will pose a strong challenge as this series and the later titles progress in the new year. 

Last Sunday’s wild weather showed how far, and quickly, the new Balmain team has come since the days in the 49ers and 29ers, and their ride to the finish line is a “must see” for all sailing enthusiasts. 

Henry was naturally happy with his team’s performance, “Sunday was a very exciting day on the harbour and tested our skills as a new crew.  We had a couple close calls, but as a team we kept calm and managed to keep the rig in the air just enough to get over the line.  The race gave us good confidence going into the rest of the season” 

Asked about the sensational ride to the finish line he said, “There is no comparison with anything I’ve previously experienced, and that’s why I love to go sailing”. 

Watching the Balmain ride on Sunday brought back fond memories of the famous David Witt-skippered Nokia exhibition of incredible action 30 years ago during the Grand Prix Sailing 18 footer race on Auckland Harbour. 

‘Witty’ has always had a reputation for his ability in strong wind so it was interesting to see whether he saw Sunday’s action.  He did, and he gave it the thumbs up, “step one to sending it downwind like the Balmain boys did on the weekend, is attempting it 100% peddle to the floor.  Well done to the Balmain boys.”  

Another Giltinan champion, John Winning (senior) was runner-up in last season’s NSW titles with Fang Warren and Josh Porebski, in Yandoo, and was runner-up in the recent Spring series, so that team’s form indicates that it is still well on the pace and has the consistency to challenge over the six-race series. 

Rag & Famish Hotel, skippered by the 2017 Youth Match Racing World champion Harry Price, has been one of the leading teams over the past two seasons, and finished third behind Seve Jarvin (Andoo) and Jack Macartney (Tech2) at the 2022 JJs. 

The Spring Championship unearthed some great new talent, including the 16-year-old championship winning skipper, Jacob Marks in The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines. 

Jacob, along with Alex Marinelli (sheet hand) and Matt Doyle (in the bow), and Marc Chapon who replaced Matt for Race 6, proved they are a young crew ready to step up and challenge their more experienced opposition. 

Two more rookie skippers in the 2023-24 season fleet are Emma Rankin (Shaw and Partners Financial Services) and Bec Hancock (Noakes Red) who will be ready and willing to mix it with the more experienced teams. 

Emma and her Shaw and Partners teammates Cam McDonald and Tom Quigley have already tasted some success when they finished sixth in the 17-boat Spring Championship fleet, and have the talent to do well in this series, particularly in the lighter breeze. 

Two new skiffs, Sixt (Nathan Edwards) and the unsponsored ‘Put Your Name Here’ (Kirk Mitchell) will improve throughout this series and more as the championship section of the season progresses, while Fisher & Paykel (Jordan Girdis), Burrawang-Young Henrys (Simon Nearn), Lazarus (Tom Cunich), Marine Outlet (John Cooley), The Kitchen Maker (Lachlan Steel) and 18 Footers Bar & Restaurant (Hugo Stoner) will complete a mixture of experienced and new teams. 

Race dates for the NSW Championship are: 

Sunday                 November 26                    Races 1 and 2 

Sunday                 December 3                       Races 3 and 4 

Sunday                 December 10                     Races 5 and 6 

Sunday                 December 17                     Races 7 and 8 

The club’s regular spectator ferry is now back in action and leaves Rose Bay Public Wharf (old wharf) at 2pm each Sunday. 

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 and all 18 footer supporters are welcome to come down to the clubhouse Alternative’ Ferry.      

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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