Australian Championship Race 5

The Smeg team of Lee Knapton, Mike McKensey and Ricky Bridge are the Australian 18ft Skiff champions following a consistently impressive regatta which concluded on Sydney Harbour today.

With two wins, one second placing and a fifth from the first four races the team finished the championship with a net total of nine points, five ahead of their nearest rival Thurlow Fisher Lawyers (Michael coxon, Trent Barnabas, Dave O’Connor) on 14 points.

For Lee Knapton and Ricky Bridge, it is a double national championship-winning season as the pair combined with Peter Mackie in Brydens Compensation Lawyers to win the Australian 16 Footer Championship at Hervey Bay in December.

All final placings behind the first two teams are provisional as a protest by first race winner for average points, if upheld, would see that team move into third place overall.

At the moment, Triple M (John Sweeny, Rob Bell, Paul Montague) is third on 21 points, just ahead (on count-back) of Noakes Youth (Ash Rooklyn, Rhys Mara, Daniel Nixon), also on 21 points.

The top six overall placings are rounded out by Coopers 62-Rag & Famish Hotel (Jack Macartney, Peter Harris, Joel Castle) on 23 points and Mojo Wine (James Ward, Phil Marshall, Rick Plain), also on 23 points.

While Smeg won the title, today’s race a triumph for the experienced Yandoo team of John Winning, Andrew Hay and Jim Beck.

Yandoo’s team were superb in very difficult conditions as they scored an impressive 3m36s win over Triple M, with Coopers 62-Rag & Famish Hotel a further 36s back in third place.

With a fluctuating WNW breeze, unusual sailing conditions for Sydney Harbour, today’s race was an important hit out for the JJ Giltinan Championship, which will be sailed from 13 to 21 February.

The newly crowned champion Smeg team elected to start at the pin end of the line and, along with Gotta Love It 7 (Seve Jarvin), Asko Appliances (Marcus Ashley-Jones), Lumix (Andy Budgen) and Triple M, were soon battling for the lead.

As the fleet settled down for the work from Rose Bay to Kurraba Point, Smeg grabbed the lead off Clarke Island but shortly after the jib block exploded and the champions day was over.

In typical Westerly fashion, the breeze at the western end of the course was much lighter and tested the closely bunched fleet for the lead.

Asko Appliances led by more than 20s as spinnakers were set for the run across the harbour to the wing mark off Clarke Island.

Yandoo was in second place, followed by Gotta Love It 7, Coopers 62-Rag & Famish Hotel, Peroni (Nick Daly) and Triple M.

This leg and the following spinnaker leg back to the bottom mark off Rose Bay took a heavy toll on the fleet as many skiffs capsized and two collided ( and near the wing mark.

Gotta Love It 7 had taken the lead after Asko Appliances capsized, but when Gotta Love It 7 capsized near the Rose Bay mark, Yandoo took the lead and was never headed from that point.

Triple M tried to match the boat speed of Yandoo but Winning and his crew were up to the challenge and continued the good form the team has shown over the first half of the season

The Australian 18 Footers League returns to regular club racing next Sunday when it stages the President’s Trophy race. This will be the final hit out for all teams before the 2016 JJ Giltinan 18ft Skiff Championship begins on Sydney Harbour on Saturday, 13 February.

Anyone planning to follow the race on the spectator ferry should make sure that they don’t leave it too late to buy their ticket as the ferries have been packed for the past few weeks.