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18ft Skiffs: The Kitchen Maker 18ft Skiff Racing Team

by Frank Quealey 1 Oct 2023 02:49 BST

The Australian 18 Footers League is always aware of the need to develop a good relationship with its sponsorship partners, so it's no surprise that The Kitchen Maker will be lining up for its 13th consecutive season when the club's Sydney Harbour 18ft skiff fleet lines up for the opening race of the 2023-24 season, which begins on Sunday, October 8.

Heading The Kitchen Maker team for his third season as skipper is Lachlan Steel, who will have Ben Kirkby (in the bow) and Jerome Watts (on the sheet) with him when the skiff lines up for Race 1 of the Spring Championship and Race 1 of the Season Point Score on the opening day.

For The Kitchen Maker's Darren McKavanagh and his family, the partnership with the League and its 18ft skiff racing goes back well beyond the length of the sponsorship.

Darren originally came into the 18s, as a competitor, in 2001 when he sailed with Greg Windust and Daryl Milham on a skiff named Total Recall.

Darren recalls "It was a huge learning curve as I had only sailed Flying 11s before then. Greg was a family friend and we sailed Flying 11s together and against each other, along with many other sailors who went on to sail 18s. Clynton Wade-Lehman joined us as skipper for the JJ Giltinan World Championship and we sailed under the South African Flag."

"From there I went on to sail a variety of different 18s before deciding to sponsor my own boat. "A lot of my work had come through sailing contacts, so I thought it would be nice to give back and also touch base with a bigger market of sailors and good contacts."

"In my first year as a sponsor, I sailed with Brett Van Munster, which was a good experience and I learned a lot. From there an old friend Cameron McDonald took over the skipper role and we had a great time."

"Prior to the 2012-13 season, I bumped into Malcolm Page a few times and, as old sailing friends, I asked him would he like to sail 18s again and he said yes. Finally, I asked him if he would like to sail on The Kitchen Maker with me and, without any hesitation, he said yes."

"I was shocked, then spent the next two years sailing with Malcolm and Cameron. It was another huge learning curve, and great fun sailing with good mates."

Malcolm Page skippered The Kitchen Maker for two seasons (2012-13 and 2013-14) followed by John Sweeny (2014-15), Andrew Chapman (2015-16) and former Giltinan World champion Stephen Quigley in 2016-17).

The 2017-18 season brought the greatest success to The Kitchen Maker 18ft skiff team when Scott Babbage skippered her to victory, along with his young teammates Tom Quigley and Sam Ellis, in the NSW Championship.

Jordan Girdis skippered The Kitchen Maker successfully for three seasons before Lachlan Steel took over at the beginning of the 2021-22 season.

Lachlan Steel and Jerome Watts, who both formerly sailed 16 footers at the St. George Sailing Club, first sailed together in the 18s, along with Matt Doyle, on the Lazarus Development skiff during the 2020-21 season before moving over to The Kitchen Maker in 2021-22.

Now, Lachlan and Jerome will be joined, for the 2023-24 season by Ben Kirkby, who is also a former 16 footers sailor at the St. George Sailing Club.

According to Lachlan, "Growing up together sailing 16 ft. skiffs at St George, we always dreamed about one day sailing an 18 footer together."

"As teenagers we would watch the old Grand Prix videos in admiration of the class and its sailors. Now, through the support of the League and our sponsor Darren this dream has become a reality."

"The 18 footer League and its sailors have been incredibly welcoming and supportive of youth sailors in the class. They have put on training and tuning days to try and get everyone up to speed with the fleet as quickly as possible."

"We are incredibly grateful to have such a supportive sponsor like Darren. He is just as invested in the racing as us and with his guidance he has helped us thrive in the 18 footer class."

"We are planning to tick off our next bucket list goal as a team which is to go sail the 18 in Lake Garda next year."

Lachlan has conducted trouble-free campaigns over the three seasons he has skippered in the 18s and his team will deserve any success that comes their way during 23-24.

His teams are always ready to race and there is rarely a change in his crew throughout the season. He upholds the standards that have long been the backbone of 18 footer racing for more than 130 years.

The Kitchen Maker team is one of up to 19 teams ready to compete in the Australian 19 Footers League's 2023-24 season fleet, and the 2024 JJ Giltinan World Championship next March.

The first race of the Australian 18 Footers League's 2023-24 is Race 1 of the Spring Championship on Sunday October 8. The event is also Race 1 of the League's Season Point Score series.

The 'Alternative' Ferry in October 2023

(Notice from the Australian 18 Footers League)

Due to public works, which is prohibiting access to Double Bay Wharf, it is a difficult exercise to run our regular Spectator Ferry for the first few weeks of the coming season. Conducting a bus service to an alternative location would not be a practical solution therefore, we have decided not to run a Spectator Ferry for the first few races.

However, we have a plan! We will run the Northern part of the 18 Footers clubhouse in Double Bay as an Alternative Ferry and have organised a massive screen to broadcast the SailMedia Livestream camera cat coverage of the racing. There will be special drinks and food offers, and our bookie will be on hand should you wish to support your favourite team.

This will provide a really unique way to celebrate the start of the 2023-24 season and all our 18 footer supporters are welcome to come down to our clubhouse 'Alternative' Ferry, starting with Race 1 of the Spring Championships on October 8.

If you can't get out onto Sydney Harbour to see the action-packed racing, or come to the club's 'Alternative' Ferry, you can catch it LIVE by going to the 18footers.com website and clicking on the 'live TV' button.

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