Four top Australian 18ft skiff teams, representing the Australian 18 Footers League, will contest the 2023 Mark Foy Trophy regatta at Lake Garda, Italy from 26th-30th June when they take on the best of the Europeans in the 15th contest for the coveted title which honours the name of the man who was the ‘father’ of the class on Sydney Harbour back in 1892. 

Mark Foy, the father of 18 footers

Mark Foy was one of the most significant historical figures in Australian sailing history.  A visionary who wanted to take sailing to a national and international level, and became the first Australian entrant in an international sailing competition when he took his 22ft boat, ‘Irex’, to England in 1898. 

The strong Australian contingent includes defending champion Marcus Ashley-Jones (Lazarus Capital Partners), the present Australian champion Keagan York (Finport Finance), 2000 JJ Giltinan world champion John ‘Woody’ Winning (Yandoo) and Season Point Score winner at the League, Simon Nearn (Burrawang-Young Henrys). 

The annual event is important to the Australian 18 Footers League, which has been a strong supporter of international competition since it conducted the first world championship regatta on Sydney Harbour in 1938. 

Following the introduction of New Zealand and Fiji up to the 1950s, the League made a concentrated effort throughout the late 1960s-early 1970s to expand the iconic Australian 18 footers to the USA, UK and Europe. 

The club’s efforts were rewarded with entries coming from USA, UK and France during the 1970s, and in the years since, 21 countries have now contested the world championship. 

League President John ‘Woody’ Winning and class historian John Steamer Stanley felt it important to honour the name of Mark Foy and at the same time promote Foy’s vision of international sailing competition by staging a Mark Foy Trophy Championship, which would be sailed at various venues around the world. 

Mark Foy Trophy

Mark Foy had originally introduced a trophy in 1935, the Mark Foy Australian Challenge Cup for competition between open or half-decked Australasian boats from 18ft-to-24ft but the trophy was never contested and remained in the Foy family’s possession until Mark passed away in 1950, when it was presented to the Sydney Flying Squadron. 

Woody and Steamer believed that it would be an international alternative to the JJ Giltinan World Championship, which is conducted annually on Sydney Harbour, and with unanimous agreement by both Sydney 18 footer clubs, the first Mark Foy Trophy regatta became a reality and was sailed at Carnac, France in 2009, and was won by the UKs champion skipper Rob Greenhalgh in Benny. 

New top which has been added to the Mark Foy trophy. Photo Frank Quealey

Since that first Mark Foy Trophy regatta, there have been further regattas staged in Australia, Denmark, New Zealand, USA, Italy and Fiji, with winners coming from Australia, New Zealand and USA. 

Simon Nearn, former UK 18 footer competitor and now Commodore of the Australian 18 Footers League, recalls, “My European 18 sailing years are filled with great experiences racing against the Aussies – Pete Calligeros in St Moritz, Peter Sorenson in Carnac France, Woody in Garda, Trevor Barnabas in Sardinia, Steve Quigley in Fowey Cornwall, Howie Hamlin in San Francisco, Alex Vallings in New Zealand and so on.”   

“The UK, New Zealand and US fleets all have JJ Giltinan winners borne from the years of international competition and the Germans are looking to be next.  The Mark Foy International Trophy travels to different events in a rotation to support these events and is steeped in history with some great winners.” 

“None of those regattas would have had the kudos they did without the League’s support in sending sailors and boats to Europe and beyond and we continue to do so today.” 

“It is a threefold exercise; part of our ethos as a club is to promote the 18s internationally and support the overseas fleets with boats on the start line, share the knowledge and development and help with equipment supply.” 

“Secondly, giving our sailors the opportunity to race at some of the greatest sailing venues in the world, travel with friends, meet new ones and be part of international sailing, and thirdly, we are there as ambassadors to encourage the overseas competitors to come and race the JJ Giltinan World Championship in Sydney, and we offer financial support as well as on the ground help, charter boats and equipment.” 

The Australian teams for the 2023 Mark Foy Trophy regatta are: 

  • Lazarus Capital Partners:   Marcus Ashley-Jones, Harry Hall, Shaun Conner 
  • Burrawang-Young Henrys:   Simon Nearn, Jack Hildebrand, Brandon Buyink 
  • Yandoo:  John Winning, Fang Warren, Josh Porebski 
  • Finport Finance:   Keagan York, Matt Stenta, Phil Marshall 

Germany’s Black Knight team of Heinrich von Bayern (skipper), Thomas Martin (sheet) and Andy Martin (bow), is expected to be Europe’s best and a strong challenger to stop Australia’s attempts at making it three consecutive victories. 

The German team, who were competing for the third time at the 2023 JJ Giltinan Championship on Sydney Harbour in March, recorded five top-10 placings (including three sixth places) in the opening eight races, and sent out an ominous message for the future in the final race of the regatta, when it finished in third place behind only the Australian champion Finport Finance and Giltinan champion Andoo teams, in 12-14 knot wind conditions.

Frank Quealey
Australian 18 Footers League Ltd.