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over 8 years ago by Hugh Styles

Skiff racing Sydney Harbour Style

Sailing in Sydney Harbour one of the greatest sailing venues in the world is an amazing experience and this weekend saw the culmination of one of the toughest regattas ive been involved in, and in the long history of the JJ Giltinan event.

The title was won by Euan Mc Nicol, Aaron Links and Trent Barnabas (Southern Cross Construction) on the very last run of the last race of the regatta, in an amazing race, where the whole fleet seemed to be playing a game of snakes and ladders (rather than sailboat racing) as they raced around the course over the 4 laps of the race.

I have been out in Australia over the last few months, getting away from the UK winter. It seemed silly not to have a try on an 18ft Skiff. The class is world renown for being spectacular in the traditional fresh windy conditions Sydney Harbour usually throws at you. But this week the weather gods did not play ball and the regatta was dominated by light and fickle conditions most of the week.

Just after the start of the new year I was down at the 18 Footer league skiff sailing club in Double Bay, and filled in sailing one of the weekly Sunday races. I loved it, the speed and the unstable nature of sailing these overpowered sailing machines was intoxicating.

Now some 7 weeks later I’ve just finished my first ever 18ft Skiff regatta and its been an awesome experience. I’ve learnt a massive amount about how to sail these monstrous boats, from wave jumping downwind on the Harbour in a fresh North Easterly wind at break neck speed, to tippy toeing around the boat yesterday afternoon in a fickle East North Easterly.

I raced with the Fisher and Pykel team and were very fortunate to get involved in a training group with one of the best Skiff sailing teams out there “Gotta Love it 7” sailed by Seve Jarvin, Sam Newton and Tom Clout. They and their coach Andrew Palfrey were great to work with fast tracking our learning, helping us develop good boat speed in a matter of a couple of weeks. A big thanks to them and also to Michael Coxon from North Sails who helped me understand the nuances of the 18ft Skiff rig tuning. Without your help then we would not have come anywhere near as far as we did in such a short time.

For the Fisher and Pykel team the worlds was rollercoaster. Andy Cuddihy the skipper came down with a really nasty flu virus just a few days before the start of the regatta. The effects of this lasted the length of the regatta, which was hard as we had put a lot into our preparations for the worlds. Even with this we started the regatta well with our best result of the week a 4th.

The next few days saw some tough racing and we duked out a few results around 8th. Unfortunately we had some very bad luck on the 4th heat when sailing out to the start of the race we found we had a knot in the spinnaker halyard inside the mast, as this could only have been from the halyard twisting we though we could get it out on the water. How wrong we were and ended up with a massive knot which we couldn’t untie until we came ashore and took the mast out of the boat. Unfortunately this gave us our drop race and put the pressure on for the rest of the regatta. We never really recovered from this and in the end finished up the regatta in 14th overall.

Its been an amazing experience for me sailing these boats and learning many new skiff sailing skills. Many thanks to Gill for your support of my sailing the kit ive been using. Especially the gloves, without which I would have no fingers and hands left. For the rash vests, which you’ll see in the picture, are now rather sun bleached but still holding up well from the rigours of getting bashed about on a skiff. Then to Andy and Mike for having a Pom on the skiff, thanks its been a good journey.

Now looking to the future Im preparing for this years forthcoming projects. There will certainly be plenty of catamaran sailing, on F18 and others (watch this space). Ill be sailing with the Atomic team on the Farr 45 in the Solent like last year, and we have big plans ahead for this team. But im definitely not looking forward to the temperature change from here back to Europe.

All the best and thanks to my sponsors for their support, looking forward to catching up with everyone at the Dinghy show at Alexander palace in early March.

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