18ft Skiffs – The 89th League 18 footers season begins

The Australian 18 Footers League will commence its 89th consecutive season of 18 footers racing on Sydney Harbour next Sunday (October 8) when up to 19 teams will contest Race 1 of the six-race Spring Championship over one of the 3-buoys club courses designed to provide even competition throughout the fleet. 

This season’s fleet, as usual, has a wide variety of competitors with an equally wide range of experience in the demanding 18 footer class. 

Last season’s Spring champions and defending champions in 23-24 are John Winning, Fang Warren and Josh Porebski on Yandoo, who will have to battle against experienced teams like the 2023 Giltinan World champion Andoo team (John Winning Jr), Australian champion and Mark Foy Trophy champion Finport Finance (Keagan York) and the up-and-coming Rag & Famish Hotel team, led by 2017 Youth Match Racing World champion Harry Price. 

A number of new and young top class skippers and crew members, mainly from the 49er and 29er classes, are sure to strengthen the level of competition as the racing moves through the season to the major championships in the early months of 2024. 

Runner-up in last season’s Spring Championship and Season Point Score was The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines, skippered by Alex Marinelli, who was having only his third season in the 18s. 

Alex is managing the campaign again this season but is handing over the skipper’s duty to 16-year-old Jacob Marks, who has graduated from the 29er class where he finished 7th in the recent world championship in Weymouth, UK. 

Balmain’s skipper Henry Larkings, who finished second behind world champion Andoo in a race at the 2023 worlds, has already shown the potential of sailors graduating to the 18s from the 49er and 29er classes.  Henry won two Australian 29er Championships (2017 and 2018) and was the bronze medalist at the 2018 Youth World Championship in the USA on his way to joining the 18s in 2021-22 and has shown the talent necessary to go to greater heights in 2023-24. 

One of the skippers likely to be a big improver this year is Tom Cunich, who will move to the Lazarus-sponsored skiff after two seasons sailing for Noakes Youth.  Tom and his team showed some very impressive form at the 2023 worlds and the step up into the Lazarus skiff should allow Tom to show his real talent. 

Three other talented new skippers to the League’s fleet this season are John Cooley (Marine Outlet), Jack Hildebrand (Shaw and Partners Financial Services) and Nathan Edwards (Sixt), all of who we will learn more about over the coming weeks of the Spring Championship. 

While the list of young and new teams is impressive, there are a number of more experienced teams still in the fleet which will be at the fore-front of the point tables when the championships are being contested. 

These include Fisher & Paykel, skippered by Jordan Girdis, an un-named new boat for Kirk Mitchell, Burrawang-Young Henrys (Simon Nearn) and The Kitchen Maker (Lachlan Steel). 

An interesting new team in the fleet is Noakes Red, which will feature rookie skipper Emma Rankin alongside experienced campaigners Cam McDonald and Miles Davey. 

Sunday’s race is also the first race for the club’s Season Point Score, which has been the League’s major handicap-based championship event, conducted over the entire season’s racing, since the club was formed in 1935.  This season will be the 89th time the club has conducted the Season Point Score, which has been won by some of the greatest sailors in 18 footer history. 

The present club Commodore Simon Nearn won the 2022-23 Season Point Score, in Burrawang-Young Henrys, and will be lining up again with his sights set on achieving another victory in the time-honoured event. 

Simon is rightly excited about the season prospects and the ongoing importance of the Season Point Score.  “The 2023-24 season welcomes new skippers Nathan Edwards with a new sponsor, Sixt, Emma Rankin on Noakes Red and Andrea Davey sharing the driving with Bec Hancock on Noakes Blue.” 

“We also see a spread of 56 years of age across the fleet from Jacob Marks, making his debut on Royal Oak, to John “Woody” Winning, on Yandoo, defying nature by sailing his 39th season in the fleet!” 

“Expect this season to be more competitive than ever with all the boats running the latest equipment and international talent spread through the fleet.” 

“Our win in the 2022-23 point score last year went down to the last race of the season.  Attention naturally focusses on the JJ Giltinan World Trophy but keep an eye on the Season Points Score which rewards consistency across the year on handicap, and funding to Lake Garda as the prize.  “We proved this could be taken out by anyone!” 

Likely fleet for the start of the 2023-24 Season

Andoo   John Winning Jr., Seve Jarvin, Sam Newton 

Balmain   Henry Larkings, Fynn Sprott, Flynn Twomey 

Burrawang-Young Henrys   Simon Nearn, Cam Walker, Paddy Bannon 

Finport Finance   Keagan York, Matt Stenta, Phil Marshall 

Fisher & Paykel   Jordan Girdis, Josh Feldmann, Jacob Broome 

Lazarus   Tom Cunich, Aiden Mansley, tba 

Marine Outlet   John Cooley, Cam Gundy, Charlie Gundy 

(New boat, tba)   Kirk Mitchell, Andrew Stephenson, Daniel Barnett 

Noakes Red   Emma Rankin, Cameron McDonald, Miles Davey 

Rag & Famish Hotel   Harry Price, Josh McKnight, tba 

Shaw and Partners Financial Services   Jack Hildebrand, Jack Ferguson, Tom Quigley 

Sixt   Nathan Edwards, Alex Leslie, Locky Pryor 

Smeg   tba, tba, tba 

The Kitchen Maker   Lachlan Steel, Jerome Watts, Ben Kirkby 

The Royal Oak Double Bay-4 Pines   Jacob Marks, Alex Marinelli, Matt Doyle 

Yandoo   John Winning, Fang Warren, Josh Porebski 

18 Footers Restaurant   Hugo Stoner, Hugo Leeming, Hamish Vass 

BP Marina   Nathan McNamara, Jed Cruikshank, Jack Taylor 

Noakes Blue   Andrea Davey, Bec Hancock, Caitlin Mulquiney, Heidi Peach 

The ‘Alternative’ Ferry in October 2023  

(Notice from the Australian 18 Footers League)  

Due to public works, which is prohibiting access to Double Bay Wharf, it is a difficult exercise to run our regular Spectator Ferry for the first few weeks of the season.  Conducting a bus service to an alternative location would not be a practical solution therefore, we have decided not to run a Spectator Ferry for the first few races.  

However, we have a plan!   We will run the Northern part of the 18 Footers clubhouse in Double Bay as an Alternative Ferry and have organised a massive screen to broadcast the SailMedia Livestream camera cat coverage of the racing.  There will also be special drinks and food offers while you support your favourite team.  

This will provide a really unique way to celebrate the start of the 2023-24 season and all our 18 footer supporters are welcome to come down to our clubhouse ‘Alternative’ Ferry, starting with Race 1 of the Spring Championships on October 8.  

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  

http://youtube.com/video/wCmN4S-gbkI/livestreaming,  

which is the direct link for Sunday’s opening race

Frank Quealey

Australian 18 Footers League Ltd.

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