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Manly 16ft Skiff Clubs Championship - Day 1

by Michael Chittenden 19 Oct 2020 11:23 BST 17 October 2020

Ben Bianco picked up where he left off to win his first race as a fulltime skipper in six years as Manly's 16ft Skiff's season continued with the opening club championship heat of 2020/21 on Saturday.

Replacing Nathan Wilmot aboard reigning state champion IMEI, Bianco combined seamlessly with Trent Barnabas and Rob Napper to clear out to an 82-second win from Sutech Musto Racing (Daniel Turner) and Growthbuilt (Ryan Wilmot) in a 15-25 knot nor' easter.

Bianco stepped out of the 16s fleet in 2014 after finishing up with Fire Stopping and, apart from sporadic guest appearances, has been largely absent from the sport.

He was happy to keep it that way until IMEI crewman and friend Trent Barnabas peppered him with requests to replace the departing Wilmot.

"They got me in a moment of weakness. I kept saying no but for some reason this time I said yes," Bianco explained.

"I've got a young family (three girls) and work commitments and every summer weekend was pretty much taken up.

"I'm also into surfing, mountain biking, windsurfing, diving...there wasn't really the time to commit to sailing.

"But I do a bit of work with Trent and he was asking me so I decided to jump back in. "So far, so good. It's good to be back. I'm really enjoying it."

The 40-year-old is no stranger to winning, steering Bianco Plumbing to the 2001/2 club championship-state championship double as well playing a part as stand-in for skipper Joe Turner in Manly Surf n Slide's 2017/18 Australian 16ft title triumph..

But Bianco didn't have things all his way early as Saturday's club championship unfolded.

IMEI got off to a sluggish start and had to work its way through the fleet as Bianco eased himself back into work.

By the time they reached the bottom mark, skipper, crew and boat were in synch and IMEI found itself in a lead it would not relinquish.

Sutech and Growthbuilt kept the pressure on but the old dog had them covered.

Bianco later said: "You remember the basics but it still takes a bit of time to get it together as a team.

"We're looking to have a bit of fun out there and not think too much about the other stuff (titles), but it's a good start."

Shebang (Anthony King) took out handicap honours, with Growthbuilt second and Botany Access (Chris Thomas) third.

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