Living an 18ft skiff dream on Sydney Harbour

One of the most enthusiastic 18ft skiff sailors around must be California-based Katie Love, who is presently spending the 2018-2019 Australian summer as skipper of the Panasonic Lumix-sponsored boat in the Australian 18 Footers League fleet on Sydney Harbour.

Like almost every young sailor in Southern California, Love began her sailing career in a Sabot, then moved up through the ranks, progressing through the different boat types raced by age group, and sailed the Junior Women’s single-handed National Championship when she was 13 years old.

“I met a fabulous group of girls that I ended up racing with at regattas around the country. One of those girls and I decided to move into the 470 Olympic class, and together we got the opportunity to travel around the country, and internationally, to race our boat in a very competitive arena.”

Love’s enthusiasm for sailing, and the adrenaline rush of high-speed excitement, soon led her in 2009 to the fledgling 18s fleet in San Francisco. She has since competed in seven San Francisco 18’ Skiff International regattas.

Love recalls: “It wasn’t long before I wanted to go out on one with some female mates.”

In the 2010 International 18 Foot Skiff Regatta in San Francisco, she realised this goal after leading the all-girl team of Mallory McCollum-Bozina and Yvonne Galvez on the former Australian Grand Prix 18 ‘Prudential’.

The three raced the pink 18 as Chad’s Angels, but it was affectionately known by the locals as the ‘Love Machine’.

According to Chad Freitas: “Katie had already shown her ability in a number of classes before she came along in 2009. Her motivation, determination and ability to put a team together were soon evident and she has been a wonderful competitor over the years since then.”

The skipper is just as complimentary about the efforts of Freitas and the Skiff Sailing Foundation, of which he is director.

“Woody (John Winning) and Howie Hamlin generously provided boats for the Foundation’s history, then Chad taught me and gave me the confidence to sail in heavy breeze and big seas.

“Over the years, I have sailed with various people in the Skiff Sailing Foundation, but mainly with Chad.”

In 2013, she led the first US all-girl team to contest a JJ Giltinan (world) Championship, the same year Australia’s Alexandra South also led an all-girl team.

“The Foundation highly encouraged an all-female team to compete in the JJ’s and supported us in the 2013 Championship. They provided the equipment and coaching to help us make it to the event.”

Both the US and Australian teams performed well against the cream of the world’s best 18ft skiff teams. It was that experience which made sailing an 18 on Sydney Harbour something the American wanted to do again, if the opportunity ever came her way.

Just weeks before the start of the 2018-2019 season, she made contact with the League to see if it was possible to “live her dream” and spend the full summer season in Australia’s premier 18ft skiff fleet.

Former Giltinan champion and League Club President, John Winning knew Love from his international championship regattas in San Francisco, her ability to drive a skiff hard on the demanding local track, and her enthusiasm for the sport. He organised a boat for her to sail.

Along with local sailor, Yvette Heritage, these two ladies are proving they are willing and able to match their skills against their experienced male competitors, and are adding a new dimension to the local fleet.

Winning, a former Giltinan champion and Australian 18 Footers League President, said: “We’re happy to have both Katie and Yvette as a part of our fleet this season. Both are very capable sailors, competing in a demanding sport, and their involvement is a welcome addition to the 18s.”

Love said: “I’ve been working extremely hard on tug-boats for the last eight years and have barely had anytime to myself or sailing. Over the last few years I have spent roughly 240 days per year at sea.

“I have decided to take a break from the tug world and pursue my dream of sailing the 18 season, and I really appreciate the warm welcome back to Sydney. I love this place and love being part of the League.”

Love and her Panasonic Lumix team will represent USA in the upcoming JJ Giltinan 18ft Skiff Championship from March 2-10.

In the meantime, she will line up against 17 other hot 18ft skiff teams on Sydney Harbour this Sunday when the Australian 18 Footers League conducts Races 6 and 7 of the Australian Championship.

The spectator ferry, which leaves Double Bay Public Wharf at 2pm, will follow all the racing action.

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