End of the 18-foot skiff cold war?
For the first time in over 10 years, skiffs from the Sydney Flying Squadron will be welcome to join in the Australian 18 Footers Sailing League’s Saturday racing on the Harbour. This is on the proviso that they reduce their wings from the Grand Prix width of 17 feet down to the more conservative 14 feet preferred by the one-design 18 foot skiff. They will also have to reduce their rig choice to come in line with the one-design’s limit of two mains and two jibs.
"This is exactly the way the 18s should be developing," Robinson told madforsailing. "It’s just a pity it’s taken so long." Robinson will be competing downunder early in January in a bid to recapture the JJ Giltinan Trophy, the unofficial world championship for the three-man skiff class. He is taking 49er Olympic silver medallist Simon Hiscocks as his mainsheet man and another Olympic tune-up crew Pete Greenhalgh as front hand. "The Aussies are giving us a boat for the championship, and we’ll be using a lot of the gear we had when we won two years ago, so we should be on the pace," said Robinson.
Robinson hoped the old Grand Prix boats would be helping to swell numbers at the championship, but said a lot depended on what happened over the course of the next few weekends’ racing, which constitutes the inaugural Computer Associates Australian Championship.
Whilst the boats will be doing what they can to conform to the one-design specification, the fact remains that they are a different hull shape, a finer-nosed Bethwaite design that is reputedly trickier to sail than the Murray-design favoured by the League 18s, but in the right hands could prove to be quicker. Should that turn out to be the case, then it would not be surprising to see the League 18 organiser Tony Reynolds less keen to admit the grandfathered Bethwaites into future League races.
As to the future of the class, Robinson said the 18-footer could be on the brink of great things, with the prospect of a world circuit based around Sydney Harbour, San Francisco Bay and Carnac in northern France. "Things could really take off for the class," he said. "I think provided we do not allow full-time professionals to come in and raise the stakes, we will see a high-quality amateur circuit develop in Australia, Europe and possibly the States as well."
A number of 49er Olympic representatives have been invited to the JJ Giltinan Trophy in the new year, including Germany’s double European champion Marcus Baur, with the Bruni brothers from Italy already confirmed for the event.