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TraveLodge: A world championship-winning 18 Footer sponsorship

by Frank Quealey 28 Jun 06:02 BST

A sponsor who came to the 18 Footers in 1964 was the TraveLodge company which decided to sponsor Bob Holmes, who was a new, young competitor to the class. The sponsorship association between Holmes and TraveLodge lasted until Holmes retired in 1974, after winning five JJ Giltinan world championships.

The TraveLodge involvement with the 18s remains one of the most (if not the most) successful sponsorships ever.

It wasn't surprising as the driving force behind the sponsorship was an incredibly skilful businessman named Alan Greenway, who was the Chairman and Managing Director of TraveLodge.

Greenway was building an international motel chain at the time and saw the 18ft Skiffs as an excellent vehicle to promote his business.

Mr. Greenway was a leader in the Australian tourism industry determined to make TraveLodge an international name in the USA. In 1965 he became the first person outside the USA to be honoured when he was elected to the Hospitality Hall of Fame.

In 1968, Greenway formed a consortium with Western Hotels and Trust Houses to buy TraveLodge US, which added 400 more TraveLodge operations to the 65 already in Australia.

Alan Greenway saw the potential of the 1963 Giltinan world champion Schemer skiff and purchased the boat from her previous owner. The boat's former skipper, Ken Beashel had returned to the 16ft Skiffs so Greenway sponsored a newcomer to the 18s, Bob Holmes, who had been sailing in the 16s.

The Bob Holmes-Alan Greenway-TraveLodge combination was an instant success.

Holmes brought his 16 Footer crew of Hugh Cooke, Bob Hagley and Bob Sheridan with him when he moved into the 18s and the new team won the 1964-1965 Australian Championship and the 1965 JJ Giltinan world Championship, which was sailed in Auckland.

The JJs win was dominating as TraveLodge won four races of the five-race regatta. Only a broken mast in the other race prevented a possible clean sweep.

Holmes Successfully defended his title in 1966 with a desperately narrow win over Len Heffernan's Apex on the Brisbane River. Holmes had only one win in the 5-race championship compared to Heffernan's two race wins, but a DNF for Heffernan in Race 2 gave Holmes a four-point victory overall.

Luck left Holmes over the next two JJs when his TraveLodge team was runner to Don Barnett (AMC) in 1967 and Ken Beashel (Daily Telegraph) at Auckland in 1968.

The Holmes-TraveLodge team was back on the winner's list in 1969, but only after a first-ever sail-off in the Giltinan world Championship to become the 1969 champion.

TraveLodge and Rod Zemanek's Willie B finished the 5-race regatta on the Brisbane River in an unbreakable tie. The two boats exchanged the lead several times in the sail-off before the Holmes-led TraveLodge finally took the title by just 26s.

Incredibly, Holmes' new boat built for the 1969-1970 season failed to qualify for the four-boat NSW team to contest the 1970 Giltinan Championship.

Despite the absence of Holmes at the 1970 JJs, the TraveLodge sponsorship was represented by US sailor Roger Welsh, which was the first-ever time the USA had been represented in the premier 18 Footer championship.

A pattern of Holmes-TraveLodge winning both the Giltinan and Australian Championships every second year continued over the next three campaigns with victories in 1971 and 1973, while only producing moderate results in 1972 and 1974.

The period between 1971 and 1974 became a time of expansion for the TraveLodge sponsorship as brand new boats and teams from New Zealand and USA challenged for the title.

Unfortunately, a terminal illness to Roger Welsh ended the US TraveLodge International challenge in 1973, but the Terry McDell's TraveLodge New Zealand team gave the sponsoring company its sixth Giltinan Championship with a brilliant victory over a red-hot Australian team on Waitemata Harbour, Auckland in 1974.

David Griffith, then the current Australian 18 Footer League President John Winning, took over the TraveLodge sponsorship in NSW. Australian 16 Footer champion Neville Buckley also had a new boat built to race as TraveLodge Queensland.

TraveLodge New Zealand continued to contest the Giltinan Championship until 1979 while the company's focus for the Australian boats changed to promote individual hotels (Pacific Harbour Fiji and Park Royal, Queensland) before the 17-year, six world championship-winning sponsorship ended in 1981.

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