Historic precedent continues
The Australian 18 Footers League has announced a fleet of more than 30 of the world’s best teams from six countries will contest the 2014 JJ Giltinan 18ft Skiff Championship on Sydney Harbour over 1-9 March.
The 2014 event celebrates 75 years of “the world’s greatest 18 footer championship” since the first regatta on Sydney Harbour in 1938.
Since the original day in January 1892, when Mark Foy attempted to 'popularise sailing', which was at the time dominated by competitors who were only interested in their own competition, 18 Footer Racing has been fortunate that other administrators have followed in Foy's footsteps, to keep up the promotion.
The Foy 18s, which were prominent in the 'Big Boat Era' until the early 1930s, were forced out with the introduction of a new type boat which was quickly adopted by the newly formed 18 Footer League.
James J. Giltinan, like Foy before him, was an entrepreneur and a visionary who had been successful with the introduction of Rugby League football to Australia in 1908. Giltinan and his League club members decided that it was important to establish an international competition for the iconic Australian 18 Footers and the JJ Giltinan (world) Championship was born.
With the exception of a brief stint in the 1950s by Fiji, only Australia and New Zealand contested the championship, until USA, UK and France made individual boat challenges in the 1970s.
High costs, due to the use of exotics in the class, almost forced New Zealand out of competition and had a negative effect on the newly formed US fleet. Once again the level of international competition dropped off, and it wasn’t until the early 1990s that the next major vision has taken the class to the international level it has achieved today.
Again costs, dwindling numbers and a split in the fleet were major problems to the on-going future of the 18s. League club President Tony Reynolds introduced dramatic changes which created a lot of negative discussion at the time. The League took ownership of all boats racing at the club and commissioned Iain Murray to design a ‘one design’ hull, with reduced number of sails. Stability of the design and the obvious cost reduction through the use of one standard mould has seen the growth of strong international competition at a more moderate cost.
Past winners are being invited to join the celebrations for what has been a wonderful championship.
Over the 75 years, there have been controversies, hard luck stories, wonderful achievements and some of the world’s best sailors and designers contest the championship, and many of these will be told in the lead up to the 2014 championship.
On the water, the big question in 2014 will be whether Seve Jarvin can extend his championship wins (as a skipper) to six and so equal the great Iain Murray, who remains the team manager for Jarvin’s Gotta Love It 7.
While Jarvin and his Gotta Love It 7 team have won five of the past six championship regattas, adding another in 2014 will not be easy as the quality of the fleet is so strong.
Recently, three past champions Bernie Skinner (1960, Surprise), 90-year-old Bill Barnett (1951, Myra Too) and Ken Beashel (1963, Schemer and 1968, Daily Telegraph) joined many of the current skippers in the rigging area prior to a heat of the NSW Championship.