18ft Skiffs – “Woody”, the ageless 18ft skiff champion

Age is just a number written on a piece of paper when it comes to the newly-crowned 2023-24 NSW 18ft skiff champion John ‘Woody’ Winning, who skippered Yandoo to victory in the eight-race series which concluded on Sydney Harbour last Sunday. 

Woody’s crew of Fang Warren, on the sheet, and Lewis Brake, in the bow, were practically faultless throughout the variety conditions which challenged the fleet over the four race days in November and December, and the team’s victory was definitely well deserved. 

The 71-year-young ‘Woody’ competes each Sunday in the Australian 18 Footers League’s fleet against several international champions who compete regularly in many of the best international competitions, plus world and Australian youth champions and for the past two seasons has achieved a great run of results. 

In the 2022-23 season, Yandoo won the Spring Championship, was runner-up in the Club Championship, was third in the NSW Championship and finished third in the Club’s Season Point Score.  The team also finished fourth in the Australian and sixth in the JJ Giltinan World championships. 

Along with his weekly racing in the high-powered, high-pressure modern skiffs at the Australian 18 Footers League every Sunday, Woody races one of Historical 18s (Aberdare) with the Sydney Flying Squadron every Saturday. 

2023-24 is John ‘Woody’ Winning’s 39th season of 18ft skiff racing, since he first skippered Travelodge Hotels-sponsored Bruce Farr designed boat in 1975-76. 

Obviously, age is not something ‘Woody; thinks about, preferring to leave that to others, who wonder “how does he do it”? 

John is more than just an incredible competitor still capable of competing at the highest level in one of the most demanding sailing boats in the world. 

Together with his family, John has contributed so much to the sport at every level and it’s difficult to think what the past 25-30 years could have been like for the 18s without his guidance, as League President, and their knowledge, inspiration and financial support of the family. 

With the 18s going into a break until January 14, when the League will conduct Race 1 of the Australian Championship, you might think it will give ‘Woody’ time to take a ‘well-earned break’. 

Not likely, ‘Woody’ is now preparing to join his son John ‘Herman’ Winning Jr on-board Andoo-Comanche to defend the Sydney-Hobart line honours title they won together in 2022. 

‘Herman’, who is also the 2023 JJ Giltinan World 18ft skiff champion, will again skipper Andoo-Commanche, however this year there will be another member of the family joining John Jr and his father when Herman’s sister Jamie will also become a member of the crew. 

Jamie Winning-Kermond is best known as one of Australia’s top equestrian grand prix competitors but she has already been competing alongside her skipper-brother John in lead up races to the ‘big one’ which starters on Sydney Harbour on December 26. 

Once the Sydney-Hobart is completed and life returns to the more regular 18ft skiff competition, the gloves come off and ‘Woody’ and ‘Herman’ become fierce rivals again as they contest the Australian (in January) and JJ Giltinan World (in March) championships on Sydney Harbour. 

At the half-way point in the club’s season, Jordan Girdis’ Fisher & Paykel leads the Season Point Score competition from Shaw and Partners Financial Services (Emma Rankin), Smeg (Nathan McNamara), The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines (Jacob Marks), Yandoo (John Winning), Burrawang-Young Henrys (Simon Nearn), Put Your Name Here (Kirk Mitchell), Balmain (Henry Larkings), Andoo (John Winning Jr) and Finport Finance (Keagan York). 

When the racing resumes on January 14, the League expects that its usual spectator ferry departure will return to its traditional Double Bay Public Wharf, which has been subject to major public works by the NSW Government. 

Frank Quealey
Australian 18 Footers League Ltd.

Jeanneau SF30 OD
JPK August 2023
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