Photos: Frank Quealey

Big conditions for season opener

Smeg comes out on top in Australian 18 Footers League's 3-Buoys Challenge

Sunday October 13th 2013, Author: Frank Quealey, Location: Australia

Strong northwesterly winds played havoc with the Australian 18 Footers League’s fleet for the opening 18ft Skiff race of the 2013-2014 season on Sydney Harbour today.

25 knot winds gusting to more than 30 knots, saw only four boats attempt to start the race, which was sailed over a three-lap windward-return course.

A long delay to the original starting time made little difference with most teams electing to stay on shore rather than risk early season damage.

With only two teams being declared official starters it was a credit to both that they completed the course.

Today’s winner was the ever-reliable Smeg, sailed by Nick Press, Dan Phillips and Dave Ewings. The winning margin being 18m16s

This team has long been one of the best heavy weather combinations and it was no surprise when they mastered the conditions.

Brett Van Munster, Harry Bethwaite and Joel Castle also completed the course in Rabbitohs-Kenwood Create More.

Mojo Wine’s crew spent quite some time on the harbour before deciding to return to shore during the long delay before the start. While not recorded as a starter, the team gave a wonderful exhibition as the raced across the harbour in an awesome display of seamanship. It’s not hard to see that Chris Nicholson, Mike McKensey and Ricky Bridge will be among the leading contenders for all the major titles this season.

After the race, winning skipper Nick Press said that conditions on the first lap were the worst as they moderated a little towards the finish: “The hardest part was actually getting off the beach and out to the start. As a team, we all agree that the best way to learn how to sail the 18s in big winds is to get out there and do it”.

When asked did it remind him of his recent 18ft Skiff regatta in San Francisco, Nick said “yes it did – only warmer”.

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