Jack Sprague was a Laser class sailor, who had a stint on a 16ft Skiff out of Manly, but once he had tasted sailing on the 16, all he wanted to do was to sail an 18ft Skiff each weekend on Sydney Harbour.

In 2016 he was given Brett Van Munster’s name (Brett is the class boat builder and a skipper in the League’s fleet) who advised Jack to contact the Australian 18 Footers League to see if there was an opportunity to sail a skiff in the 2016-2017 Season.

After submitting a CV of his sailing record, League Club Commodore, Simon Nearn, provided Jack with a hull and some gear to get him on the water.

Living around 75 kms north of Sydney at Point Claire on the Central Coast of NSW meant that Jack would have to trail the skiff to-and-from his home to the League’s Double Bay rigging area but that was no barrier to the enthusiastic Sprague, who was always one of the first skippers to arrive with his boat each Sunday.

A rookie season in the 18s is difficult enough for any team, but when you add the travel, putting together a new crew to the 18s and ‘sorting out’ the gear in an older boat, Jack was facing a massive task.

Jack also recalls: “The early part of that particular season was dominated by really strong winds so that only added another dimension to the task.”

“One thing which was a big positive was to meet another team who were also having their first season in the 18s. Bryce Edwards, Rory Cox and Jacob Broom.”

“We have become good friends and the boys (now the crew of Rag & Famish Hotel) have been a great help as we have progressed over the three seasons.”

Despite Jack’s first season in the 18s being tough, the Australian 18 Footers League administrators were impressed by his attitude and Jack was rewarded by being allocated with a better boat.

League Club President, John Winning said: “Jack’s attitude towards his sailing and the club was exceptional and in keeping with the values we want to see in our fleet.”

As a self-employed electrician, things weren’t made any easier for Jack however his enthusiasm, dedication to the sport and an attitude built on family ‘values’ as a ‘real club man’ at the Gosford Sailing Club has seen Jack progress steadily over the three seasons in the 18s to date.

When Dal Zotto, a family owned wine maker based in Victoria’s King Valley, came aboard as a sponsor in 2018-2019, team Dal Zotto began to get some improved equipment and better results soon began to reward the young team.

Jack and the Dal Zotto team won a race, and produced a number of minor placings during the Spring Championship then backed it up with a victory in the annual Queen of the Harbour race on the final day of the 2018-2019 Season.

Naturally happy with his team’s continued improvement on the water, Jack was even happier with life at the 18s. “I am over-whelmed with the amount of support and comradery given to Josh, Tim and myself, the new kids on the bay, from the more knowledgeable skiff sailors.”

“The 18s are action-packed and give a sailor the best and toughest ride he can have.”

“I now feel that I have made it to where I wanted to be, and hopefully one day become a good 18ft Skiff sailor, learning from the likes of John Winning and Michael Coxon.”

Now, for the 2019-2020 Season, Jack has the sponsor support of Dal Zotto, a settled crew of Tim Narborough and Josh Feldmann, plus a supportive partner, Lisette Luijten, and parents, Elizabeth and John, on race days.

After the first two races of the new 2019-2020 Season, Dal Zotto’s team has already shown further improvement on 2018-2019 and is placed equal seventh in the 18-boat fleet, following an impressive fourth placing in last Sunday’s Race 2 of the Spring Championship.

Jack says the team haven’t set specific goals for the season: “We just want to continue to improve as a team. As someone who spent so much time in an individual sailing class, like the Laser, I really enjoy the friendship associated with being in a team.”

“I would also like to thank Dal Zotto’s Patrick, Michael and Christian who are great believers in us as a team, which makes us feel we are giving the company the result they want from their sponsorship.”

John Winning’s final comment: “Every club needs people like Jack Sprague.”

The Australian 18 Footers League’s 2019-2020 Season continues Sunday when the club will stage Race 1 of the Club Championship.

Spectators can see all the teams in the rigging area, then follow the racing on board the spectator ferry, which leaves Double Bay Wharf, alongside the rigging area, each race day at 2pm.

Book online through the club’s website www.18footers.com

The livestream video team is also out on Sydney Harbour to capture all the action for those who can’t make it onto the water. Livestreaming is available by going to www.18footers.com and clicking on the ’18 Footers TV’ link.

As well as watching the livestreaming coverage, you can also follow all the club’s racing throughout the entire 2019-2020 Racing Season: