Since the first regatta in 1938, the quality of competition at the J.J. Giltinan 18ft Skiff Championship has been so strong that there have been only eleven multiple championship-winning skippers in the event’s 75 year history.
Only three of those have won more than two championship regattas.
Trevor Barnabas was successful five times in skiffs sponsored by Bonds (Chesty Bond), Smeg and Radio 2UE and ranks third overall behind two skippers, Seve Jarvin and Iain Murray, who are equal with six wins each.
What makes the achievements of Jarvin and Murray even more remarkable; they were both sponsored by Television’s Channel Seven Network more than 20 years apart.
Murray’s victories, 1977-1982 inclusive, were achieved in COLOR 7, while Jarvin’s successes have been in GOTTA LOVE IT 7 in 2008, then 2010-2014 inclusive.
(Seve is already a seven-time champion at the JJ Giltinan 18ft Skiff Championship as he crewed to victory with skipper Euan McNicol onCLUB MARINE in 2005).
Even if Murray’s record is surpassed this year, Iain will still have a great claim to the title as he is the team manager and mastermind behind the present Team Seven campaigns.
Sam Newton, who has been with Seve for five of the six wins in GOTTA LOVE IT 7, and Scott Babbage, four wins, present a formidable team of skill and experience and will be strongly favoured to make it seven for seven.
Over the period of the GOTTA LOVE IT 7 wins we mustn’t forget the efforts of Rob Bell, Tom Clout and Peter Harris, who were all integral parts of the championship-winning team in 2008, 2010 and 2013 respectively.
Despite the previous successes and current form of the Gotta Love It 7 team, the challengers will present a formidable group of highly talented sailors in state-of-the-art skiffs and the end result is likely to go down to the last race on Sunday 22 February before the overall winner is determined.
On the form displayed by the fleet in lead up races over the first half of the season, the greatest challenge to ‘7’ is likely to come from recently crowned NSW champion Michael Coxon’s Thurlow Fisher Lawyers, Lee Knapton’s Mojo Wine and Jack Macartney’s Coopers 62-Rag & Famish Hotel.
The 2006 and 2007 JJ Giltinan champion Michael Coxon also comes to the regatta with a strong crew combination (Dave O’Connor, Trent Barnabas) which was runner-up in the 2014 event. Consistency and a little bad luck at times has hampered the chances of the Thurlow Fisher Lawyers team in recent seasons, but it has the proven ability to win and will be at or near the top of the leader board to the end.
Coopers 62-Rag & Famish Hotel has been on the podium for each club championship race during the early part of the current season. The consistency, experience and strength of the crew (Macartney, Peter Harris, Mark Kennedy) will ensure ‘The Rag’ is one of the top contenders and will be near the lead throughout the championship.
Australian 16 Footer champion Lee Knapton joins Mike McKensey and Ricky Bridge on Mojo Wine and has already shown why he is a multiple national champion by steering Mojo Wine to victory in two championship races over the past two months and was narrowly beaten for the NSW Championship, which concluded on Sydney Harbour last week. This team is a big challenger.
Alex Vallings (C-Tech) and David McDiarmid (Yamaha) will once again lead the strong New Zealand five-boat contingent in the quest to take the first Kiwi title since Terry McDell’s Travelodge New Zealand in 1974.
Both have been right up to the challenge and only consistency has been the enemy of both teams. A lack of local knowledge has probably been the major factor in the lack of consistence but they showed in2014 that they are bridging the knowledge gap as they finished 1-2 in Race 3 of the 2014 regatta and were placed 4th and 5th in the overall standings.
U.S. champion Howie Hamlin is looking to regain the JJ Giltinan title he won in 2002 and 2003 and will contest the 2015 regatta with new rigs specially developed for the challenge. He was recently in Australia to rig the boat and is certain to have a top line crew for the effort.
There are many other local teams which will figure prominently throughout the championship and race wins for any would not be a surprise.
Two of the most likely teams in this group are Smeg and Asko Appliances.
David Witt, Tom Clout and Matt Wark are heavy wind specialists and will be extremely hard to beat if the prevailing conditions favour them in Smeg. This team only last week showed that they cannot be discarded in lighter winds by taking out Race 5 of the NSW Championship.
Marcus Ashley-Jones, James Dorron and Jeronimo Harrison won Race 7 of the 2014 regatta and finished 6th overall. This season has seen the team put a new hull on the water and it should benefit from the lead up races by the time this regatta in under way.
2000 JJ Giltinan champion John Winning is back with Andrew Hay and Jim Beck in Yandoo while two new skippers are showing their skill already amongst the top end of the fleet.
After crewing in the 18s for the past few seasons, Keagan York takes over the tiller and will skipper Compassmarkets.com, which he also sponsors. His skill was soon apparent and his team has featured prominently in all races of the club championship this season where it is presently placed fifth.
Appliancesonline.com.au (Micah Lane) has brand new hull for the regatta but only recently took delivery. The challenge of getting it up to top speed with such little preparation will be a huge test for this talented combination.
Other teams which have shown the potential to win races are Lumix (Jonathan Whitty), De’Longhi (Simon Nearn) and The Kitchen Maker (John Sweeny) and all will be consistent performers during the regatta.