Australian 18 Footers League Academy

The Australian 18 Footers League has established an exciting new concept to encourage and educate new recruits, or recently recruited young sailors to the high-speed world of 18ft skiff racing.  

According to organisers, the Academy will fast track learning and teach everyone the right way to set up, care for, sail and be a part of the 18 footers. It will introduce the Academy members to the sailors in the fleet, matching every new team with a mentor to show how everything works, so they can quickly enjoy the 18 footers club life. It will also ensure that everyone has a fun, successful racing season and that the 18 footers class remains strong and continues to grow.  

The Smeg team holding the the 18ft Skiff Trophy.
Michael Coxon (centre) and Ricky Bridge (right) presented the first meeting. Pic – Jessica Crisp

The timing of the 2021 program was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in Sydney but still managed the first meeting on Zoom on September 15, with current JJ Giltinan world champions Michael Coxon and Ricky Bridge.

Coxon explained how to set up your boat, what settings they look at as well as crew weight and positioning. He also explained what to check for wear and tear, and how to care for the 18 Footer.  

Along with Bridge, and backed up by Commodore Simon Nearn, they also went over safety in an 18 footer, how the spare air works, caring for personal knives and how they must be easy to access, the harness and the best gear to wear for comfort and protection.  

Coxon is very positive about the academy. He said: “It’s a great initiative from the club. Ricky and I were certainly happy to help kick things off. We basically ran through a very broad take on how to get the boats on the water and how to best stay on top of the water. No doubt we will all get a chance shortly to discuss and perform things in more detail.”  

Australian 18 Footers League Sailing Manager and Academy co-ordinator, Jessica Crisp, says it is “a teaching and mentoring program that gives all new teams and crews the tools to become a great 18ft skiff sailor.”  

“Each season all new skippers and crews will be invited to join the Sailing Academy,” said Crisp. “Interested parties can contact the club to join as well, the more the merrier. The new teams are matched with a mentor to help them throughout the season. In the first season, we have invited four new teams to the 18s, along with three teams who had their first season in 2020-21, plus 10 individuals.

“Teams are scheduled to have training sessions with an experienced coach, and a few mentors would also be attending to cover a variety of topics such as 18ft skiff set-up, what to do, on the water, to make the boat go faster, and how to care for the boat with correct maintenance. Dick Parker from North Sails has also agreed to come down to the 18s and check settings and luff curves, look at the sails, and mast bend, and talk to teams about the rigs.”  

As Jessica points out, “the program is not only good for the competitors, it is also a great initiative to support the club’s overall program, which has been in place for more than 25 years.”  

Jessica Crisp and Jack Macartney talking
Australian 18 Footers League Sailing Manager Jessica Crisp and Jack Macartney discuss plans for the meeting. Pic – 18ft skiff

Finally, after four months of lockdown in Sydney, the second meeting was conducted in Double Bay Park, alongside the clubhouse, by the reigning Australian champion Jack Macartney. Macartney spent two and a half hours with the new teams, tunning their rigs for them, and explaining in great detail what he does to his boat to make it go fast.  

Two Appliances Online crew rigging their skiff. Boat is on its side and they're preparing the mast.
Two Appliances Online crew rigging their skiff. Pic – 18ft skiff

Crisp summed up the progress so far: “It has been a great start to the 18 Footers Academy and anyone who would like to join should please contact the club.” 

The newcomers will get their opportunity to ‘mix it’ with their more experienced rivals on Sunday when the Australian 18 Footers League stages Races 1 and 2 of the Spring Championship on the first day’s racing of the 2021-22 season. 

A person checking the mast on shore, another person looking at the front of the boat.
The Kitchen Maker-Caesarstone team getting ready for the 18 Footers League meeting. Pic – 18ft skiff

For those unable to make it out onto the water, the club’s live broadcast team will be on Sydney Harbour to capture all the action.  Live streaming is available at then clicking on the ’18 Footers TV’ link. 

Follow all the club’s racing throughout the 2021-2022 racing season: 

Club Website  

Twitter                      @18skiff 

Instagram                 @18skiff 

Facebook                 International 18Ft Skiff   

Frank Quealey, Australian 18 Footers League

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