When the Michael Coxon-led Smeg 18ft Skiff Racing Team takes to Sydney Harbour for the Australian 18 Footers League’s 2022-23 season it will become the 26th consecutive season of boat sponsorship by the “technology with style” company with the League.
Joining Coxon in the Smeg team are Ricky Bridge, on the sheet, and Tom Anderson, who is making a return to the 18s, in the bow.
Smeg Australia’s reputation for high quality whitegoods products has been matched throughout its 26 years record of achievement on the harbour, and the company has been represented by some of the greatest 18 footer skippers in the 130-year history of the iconic Australian sport.
Smeg-sponsored 18 footer teams have won five JJ Giltinan world Championships, two Australian Championships and three NSW Championship titles.
The Smeg Australia company’s first sponsorship in the 18s began in the 1996-97 season when the Trevor Barnabas-led team raced a skiff named Omega Smeg-2UE.
Trevor had previously won two JJ Giltinan world Championship titles, with Chesty Bond skiffs in 1987 and 1988, before going into ‘retirement’ to support his son Trent, who was beginning to move through the junior sailing classes.
The Smeg-Barnabas team was an instant success when the combination won both the JJ Giltinan world Championship and NSW Championship in 1997 and 1998.
The team actually had two Giltinan world Championship wins in 1997 when, for the only time in the championship’s history, two regattas were raced in the one calendar year, when the second regatta was sailed in Italy.
For Trevor Barnabas, it was an even greater success story. Trent had just turned 18 and graduated to the 18s and, along with Rod Howell, was part of the three championship victories.
Trevor, Trent and Rod raced for the next two seasons as Omega Smeg-2UE then became Omega Smeg for the following eight seasons, until 2007-08 season.
When Trevor Barnabas retired, Sydney 2000 Olympian Daniel Phillips took over as skipper and there have been a number of high-achieving skippers controlling the Smeg racing program.
The pressure of work and family commitments saw Daniel hand over the skippering duties to Hugh Stodart in 2008-09, but he still competed as part of the Smeg crew.
Nick Press, one of the all-time great Inter-dominion 12ft skiff champions, took over between 2009-10 and 2013-14 seasons and, during his five-year tenure of skippering the Smeg challenge, finished in and around the top five placings in the JJs.
Nick recalled, “I was lucky enough to campaign Smeg with and learn from two 18 footer skiff legends, Daniel Phillips and Dave Ewings, and we managed to take out some season point scores, and a few championship heat wins. We also had a 2nd place in the Australian Championship and 5th In the JJ Giltinan, which were our best results.”
The champion skippers kept coming on board when, 1999 JJ Giltinan world champion and highly acclaimed international ‘big boat’ skipper, David Witt followed Press for the 2014-15 season,
Smeg’s fourth JJ Giltinan world champion was Lee Knapton, who along with his team of Ricky Bridge and Mike McKensey took the 2016 title.
Lee is one of only four former Australian 16 footer champion skippers to also win the JJ Giltinan world Championship. The other three are ‘Billo’ Hayward, Ken Beashel and Trevor Barnabas.
Lee Knapton has won eight Australian 16 footer Championships and is the only skipper in the long history to win both the Australian 16 Footer and Australian 18 Footer Championships in the same season. In 2015-16, he sailed the 16 each Saturday and the 18, with the League, each Sunday.
When Lee Knapton retired from the 18s, Michael Coxon became Smeg’s sixth skipper.
Coxon had already won three JJs for three different sponsors prior to joining Smeg in 2018-19. His first came in 2006 when he skippered Casio Seapathfinder to victory, then Fiat in 2007 and Thurlow Fisher Lawyers in 2017.
After taking a season off in 2019-20, when former Australian 18 footer champion Micah Lane skippered Smeg, Coxon returned to lead Smeg’s 2020-21 campaign and gave Smeg its fifth JJ Giltinan world Championship in 2021.
The 2021 championship-winning team included Trent Barnabas, from the original Smeg champion team in 1996, and Ricky Bridge, who was a member of Lee Knapton’s 2016 winning team.
Australian 18 Footers League President, John Winning recognises the value of sponsorship in high performance sport and appreciates Smeg Australia’s long-running financial involvement with the League and the 18ft Skiff class. “We are delighted with Smeg’s long-time sponsorship and the way the company has involved its staff with the club and the racing.”
“Smeg was the first whitegoods company to be associated with our club and this led to a number of others also coming on board, and the company deserves all the success that has come its way in the major championships.”
If the Michael Coxon-led 2022-23 campaign can be successful at the 2023 JJs, it will give him a fifth JJ Giltinan world Championship and Smeg Australia number six.
The Australian 18 Footers League’s 2022-23 season will begin this Sunday (October 16) on Sydney Harbour, when the 18-boat fleet lines up for Race 1 of the annual Spring Championship.
Spectators can follow the action on board the club’s spectator ferry, as they have done for the past 87 years. Booking online through the club’s website www.18footers.com is essential, https://18footers.com/18-footer-racing/spectator-ferry/
For anyone who can’t make it out onto the water, the League’s live broadcast team will be out on Sydney Harbour to capture all the action. Live streaming is available at www.18footers.com by clicking on the ’18 Footers TV’ link.
Follow all the club’s racing and up-to-date news:
Club Website www.18footers.com
Facebook International 18Ft Skiff
For anyone who wants to take a look at Sail Media’s action videos from the 2021-22 season, including the 2022 JJ Giltinan Championship, go to www.18footers.com and click on the ’18 Footers TV’ link.
Australian 18 Footers League Ltd.