The NSW champion – The Kitchen Maker team of Scott Babbage, Tom Quigley and Sam Ellis – have won the Winning Group Invitation Race of the JJ Giltinan International 18ft Skiff Championship in a controversial finish on Sydney Harbour today.
Smeg (Lee Knapton) had the race won, but the team elected to sail outside the finish line because of the superstition that the winner of the invitation race doesn't win the Championship.
Harken (Riley Gibbs, Peter Harris, Dan Phillips) was officially second 54secs behind the winner, with the early leader Yandoo (John Winning, Cam McDonald, Mike Kennedy) a further 37secs back in third place.
Quality Marine Clothing (Aron Everett) finished strongly over the latter half of the course to take fourth place, ahead of New Zealand's trio of C-Tech (Alex Vallings), Honda Marine (David McDiarmid) and Maersk Line (Josh Porebski).
Today's race was sailed in a 13-15-knot south-south-east wind on Sydney Harbour, perfect conditions for the fleet to set up their big No. 1 rigs for the championship proper.
John Winning's experience proved a winner when he sailed Yandoo to the western side of Shark Island and grabbed a 15s lead at the windward mark in Rose Bay.
Finport Trade Finance (Keagan York) was in second place, ahead of Smeg, Asko Appliances (Seve Jarvin, replacing James Dorron for the race), The Kitchen Maker, Vintec (Kirk Mitchell) and Honda Marine.
Most of the fleet elected to sail without spinnakers early on the run to the bottom mark, but Finport set early and it enabled the skiff to take the lead at the bottom mark.
Yandoo was still in second place but the big improver was Honda Marine which was up into third place ahead of a group which included The Kitchen Maker, Appliancesonline (Brett Van Munster) and Smeg.
Finport maintained her lead at the mark off Clark Island but Honda Marine was continuing to gain and was just behind Finport as the fleet set off for Chowder Bay.
New Zealand's Honda Marine showed her pace to take the lead, but the crew miss-read the correct rounding mark and lost several places.
Yandoo was once again back in the lead, ahead of Smeg, Finport, The Kitchen Maker, Triple M (James Ward) and Appliancesonline.
A big change came over the lead on the work across the harbour to the windward mark in Rose Bay.
The Kitchen Maker opened up a big lead over Smeg, Finport, Harken, Triple M, Yandoo and Appliancesonline then retained the lead on the loop to Taylor Bay and return to Rose Bay.
Smeg was just 15secs behind the leader, with Harken making up time to be in third place just another 20secs behind Smeg.
Maersk Line, Quality Marine Clothing, Yandoo and Honda Marine were all close together, followed by Vintec and Triple M.
The final spinnaker run in lighter wind proved a big test for the three leaders and the experienced Smeg team proved the master with a 10s lead over The Kitchen Maker and Harken as they headed for the finish off Clark Island.
Smeg held a narrow lead as the fleet approached the finish line before her crew elected to sail outside the line, leaving The Kitchen Maker to take the honours.
Today's Result Sheet is attached, together with eight photos
Race 1 of the JJ Giltinan Championship will be sailed on Sydney Harbour tomorrow, Saturday 3 March
Race dates for the rest of the championship are:
Race 2 Sunday March 4
Race 3 Tuesday March 6
Race 4 Wednesday March 7
Race 5 Thursday March 8
Race 6 Saturday March 10
Race 7 Sunday March 11
Follow the Championship at: www.18footers.com
Frank Quealey/Australian 18 Footers League