Main photo: Australian champion Finport Finance wins Race 1 of the Spring Championship. Photo by SailMedia

The Australian 18 Footers League’s 89th consecutive 18ft skiff racing season began on Sydney Harbour when the club staged Race 1 of the 2023-24 Spring Championship, which resulted in a victory for the Australian champion Finport Finance team of Keagan York, Matt Stenta and Phil Marshall.

Finport Finance produced a brilliant performance, in the light ENE breeze, to overcome her handicap under the 3-buoys system, and win an exciting opening race to the season.

In a race where the lead changed on numerous occasions over the three-lap North East course, Finport Finance crossed the finish line 37s ahead of Yandoo (John Winning, Fang Warren, Josh Porebski), with Balmain (Henry Larkings, Fynn Sprott and Flynn Twomey) a further 8s back in third place.

Emma Rankin, who was having her first race in an 18ft skiff, produced an outstanding effort to bring Shaw and Partners Financial Services home in fourth place, ahead of Giltinan World champion Andoo (John Winning Jr) and Sixt, skippered by Nathan Edwards, who was also having his first race as skipper in the 18s.

In a close finish to an exciting race, in which the lead and most of the top ten placings changed continually throughout the race, Marine Outlet recovered from an early setback to come home in seventh place just ahead of Smeg (Nathan McNamara) and Fisher & Paykel (Jordan Girdis).

18 Footers Restaurant (Hugo Stoner) was also in that group but capsized only metres from the finish line as the team executed their final gybe of the race.

The race highlighted the advantages of the 3-buoys handicap system which gives every boat the opportunity of success if it performs to the crew’s potential.

On the first lap of the course, Shaw and Partners grabbed an early lead over Yandoo when Emma and her team took advantage of going to the blue mark while Yandoo had to go to the white buoy and Finport Finance to the red.

It produced a great spinnaker run to the wing mark at the southern end of Shark Island with little between Shaw and Partners, Yandoo and Finport Finance as the young, rookie skipper battled to hold off her more experienced rivals.

At the end of the first lap at Clark Island, Yandoo grabbed a narrow lead and soon set up a handy lead as the fleet worked its way back to the second set of 3-buoys mark off Beashel Buoy.

Once again the handicapping of the 3-buoys brought the fleet together and at the bottom mark on the second lap Yandoo’s lead was back to a narrow margin over Finport Finance, with Balmain, Sixt, Andoo and Smeg all in contention.

The RHS of the course (typically in an ENE breeze) was again the better course and the champion Finport team excelled to reach the red mark just ahead of Shaw and Partners at the blue mark.

As the fleet then raced to the final wing mark in Rose Bay, all crews in the leading group battled the ‘tight’ wind direction and all spinnakers had to be dropped to allow the skiffs to reach the mark at the end of Shark Island.

While Finport Finance held a clear lead, it set up a great race between the challenging teams as only a few seconds separated Yandoo, Balmain, Shaw and Partners, Andoo and Sixt as they raced between the islands to the finish line off Clark Island.

Don’t forget: the Australian 18 Footers League’s ‘Alternative Ferry’ 

Due to public works, which is prohibiting access to Double Bay Wharf, it is a difficult exercise to run our regular Spectator Ferry for the first few weeks of the season.  Conducting a bus service to an alternative location would not be a practical solution therefore, we have decided not to run a Spectator Ferry for the first few races.  

However, we have a plan!   We will run the Northern part of the 18 Footers clubhouse in Double Bay as an Alternative Ferry and have organised a massive screen to broadcast the SailMedia Livestream camera cat coverage of the racing.  There will be special drinks and food offers available while you support your favourite team.  

This will provide a really unique way to celebrate the start of the 2023-24 season and all our 18 footer supporters are welcome to come down to our clubhouse ‘Alternative’ Ferry’. 

Race 2 of the Spring Championship will be sailed next Sunday, October 15.  

If you can’t get out onto Sydney Harbour to see the action-packed racing, or come to the club’s ‘Alternative’ Ferry’, you can catch it LIVE by going to the Club’s website and clicking on the TV link 

Frank Quealey
Australian 18 Footers League Ltd.

Photos by SailMedia

Season 2023-24 start off Clark Island