The Smeg team of Lee Knapton, Ricky Bridge, Mike McKensey scored a double victory in the Australian 18ft Skiff Championship on Sydney Harbour today, and go into next Sunday's final day with a 14 points lead over their nearest rival.
Smeg's crew was faultless as the skiff powered around the North-East course in the 20-25 knot wind.
Race 7 was an all-the-way 1m15s win over James Ward, Adam Gillson, Ben Bradley in Triple M, followed by a 30s victory over The Kitchen Maker (Scott Babbage, Tom Quigley, Sam Ellis in Race 8. Ilve, skippered today by the reigning JJ Giltinan champion Michael Coxon, with his crew Pedro Vozone and Charlie Gundy, finished third in both races.
The day took a very heavy toll on the fleet with only eight skiffs able to finish in Race 8.
Problems began when Appliancesonline.com.au (Brett Van Munster) was forced to stay ashore after gear breakage during the rigging prevented the team from competing.
Smeg quickly took the lead from Asko Appliances (James Dorron) in Race 7 but Asko's challenge soon ended on the first spinnaker run when the skiff suffered a broken forestay.
Conditions saw a number of skiffs capsize early in the race, leaving Smeg to lead from Finport Trade Finance (Keagan York) at the bottom mark. The Kitchen Maker was in third place but capsized as the team approached the bottom mark.
With all major challengers out of contention, Smeg had little difficulty over the final lap of the course.
Race 8 was a far tougher contest for the flying red machine as The Kitchen Maker pushed Smeg to the limits over the first lap of the course.
The young NSW champions on The Kitchen Maker led at the windward mark and held on down wind as Smeg challenged strongly.
Smeg proved too strong and recorded a well-deserved double, while the Ilve team also deserves great praise for two consistent performances in the testing conditions.
Races & 10 Final two races of the Australian Championship will be sailed next Sunday, 25 February. The Australian 18 Footers League's Spectator Ferry will follow the races.
– Frank Quealey