Port Jackson 16ft Skiff Championship

It took six years for the Port Jackson 16ft Championship to be revived – and only two hours for the fleet to be reminded just how brutal a race it can be.

The famous event was first held just after WWII – the summer of 1948/49 – and ran until the early 2000s before appearing spasmodically over the next two decades. The Manly club resurrected it this season and welcomed a 51-strong fleet to the start line in a 25-knot nor easter last Saturday.

It’s a race that tests crews and skippers both physically and mentally, offering up the best and worst Sydney Harbour can throw at you.

Manly’s Moonen Yachts (Daniel Turner) showed stamina, skill and sailing smarts to hold off Belmont’s terrier-like SKE (Banjo Nicholson) and win by around two minutes, with St George duo Noakes (Sarah Lee) and Toogara (Tom Clout) third and fourth respectively.  Five Manly boats – Moonen, Sutech Building Consultants (Michael Koerner), Red Pumps (Tyler Dransfield), Imagine Signage (Nathan Wilmot) and Modern Concept Constructions (Gerard Smith) – finished inside the top 10.

The significance of the win only dawned on Turner as he enjoyed a post-race drink with Manly 16ft icon John “Steamer” Stanley, who has forgotten more than most of us know when it comes to the history of skiff sailing. “He gave me a bit of background about the race and actually had the regatta guide pamphlet from the 1980s,” Turner said. “I just thought we’d won another race but having a few with Steamer I realised we’d joined a rich history. “This is not a little club event. It goes back a long way and is a big part of Sydney Harbour’s sailing history. “It’s great we can add to our name to it.”

Turner and crew Matt Stenta and Simon Hoffman led pretty much all the way but were made to work for their win. Defending Australian 16ft champions Imagine Signage (Nathan Wilmot) were on Moonen’s hammer until going around a mark the wrong way.

By the time they went back and corrected their mistake, they’d dropped from second to eighth. It then became a race in two between SKE and Moonen, with the Manly boat doing enough to cross the line almost two minutes in front.

“We had a great start and some awesome downwind runs and did the complete soldier’s course around the islands and the reefs,” Turner said. “It’s a full-on tactical race where you’re trying not to run aground or into markers or harbour traffic – it has it all.

“You are navigating the waterways, the fleet and the traffic – it tests everything about you as a crew and a boat. “You’ve got to have all bases covered.”

It was a double triumph for the Manly club, with Ebix-Sail Racing (Jemma Hopkins) beating home a strong field to take out the 13ft division. Hopkins, combining with brother James, was 16 seconds ahead of runner-up Plonk Café (Averil Richardson) from Middle Harbour.

The next six places were filled by Manly boats.

Photos Credit – Sail Media

Words Adam Lucius

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