Right to the wire

Andy Rice watched the dramatic final race of the unofficial Skiff World Championship in Sydney
American Skiff winners - Howie Hamlin's General Electric When Iain Murray describes the final heat of this year’s JJ Giltinan Trophy as the most exciting skiff race he has ever witnessed, it means something. As the man who won this prestigious event six times on the trot in the late 70s and early 80s aboard a series of skiffs sponsored by the Color 7 television station, Murray is a living legend in these circles. But yesterday it was a trio of Americans led by helmsman Howie Hamlin who stole the trophy from under the noses of the predominantly Australian fleet. It was only the second time in the JJ Giltinan's long history that a non-Aussie had won the series, the other time being Britain's Tim Robinson in 1999. When the 25 boats left the beach at Double Bay for the 2.30 pm start near Bradley's Head, any one of four teams had a realistic chance of victory. Defending champions Rag & Famish led by the young John Harris looked the best bet but he had a terrible first beat and looked out of the contest at the first windward mark. "We gave them a bit too much start," admitted Harris. "We didn't get off the line too badly but after 40 seconds we got stuck above the world's biggest pincher and below the world's biggest reacher. Those White Stuff guys were going pretty quick and reached over the top of us, and we got spat out the back. We couldn't tack because of some other turkey, so we rounded about 12th, maybe worse." But it was a long race that took the fleet around the Harbour in testing conditions that got as high as 17 knots at times. Derwent Racing, helmed by Chris Nicholson’s ex-front hand in the 49er, Daniel Phillips, rounded