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18ft Skiff Spring Championship: Sunday's big final showdown

by Frank Quealey 15 Nov 2023 05:36 GMT 19 November 2023

Next Sunday's final race of the Australian 18 Footers League's 2023-24 Spring Championship on Sydney Harbour is expected to go right down to the final leg of the course with just four points separating the leading three teams on the point score table.

Adding to the drama of the contest, the two leaders going into Sunday's race are the same two teams that finished at the top of the 2022-23 championship.

Yandoo's team of John 'Woody' Winning, Fang Warren and Josh Porebski is the same crew which was successful last year, but this time the very experienced team goes in three points behind the leading team - The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines.

The Oak's team is one of the youngest in the fleet, led by 16-year-old Jacob Marks, who has sailed only six races in the 18s since graduating from the International 29er class in October.

Just three months ago, Jacob and his Scots College school mate Ben Crafoord won the Q series at the 29er World Championship (five wins from seven races) at Weymouth, UK, then finished in seventh place in the gold fleet at the following worlds.

Last season's skipper of The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines was Alex Marinelli, who is still managing the team in 2023-24, but Alex elected to move himself onto the mainsheet, alongside bowman Matt Doyle, who also adds more experience to the high-performing team.

Speaking about his decision, Alex says, "I knew Jacob was keen to sail in the 18s and wherever on the boat, but I believed it was a better option for the team if he was the skipper."

"Jacob is great with tactics and strategy and is very level headed."

"I originally came into the 18s as a sheet hand in 2020-21 and I enjoyed it. I like the physical side more and the opportunity to set up the boat."

"I'm confident that I made the correct decision and results so far also seem to support it."

For 'Woody', it could be a conflict between his personal determination to defend his 2022-23 title and win the Yandoo Trophy again, and his long-held position as President of the League, which has a strong, ongoing Youth Policy.

Anyone who knows the 39-season 18 footer veteran also knows that there is definitely no possibility of that happening.

As 'Woody' points out, "I've been racing against my son (John Jr, skipper of Giltinan World champion Andoo) for several seasons and once we leave the rigging area we are just two racing competitors."

"It will be the same thing on Sunday. We will be racing against sixteen other competitors, regardless of who they are, and we will be out there to win."

While much of the attention has centred around the top two teams on the points table, the Fisher & Paykel team of Jordan Girdis, Josh Feldmann and Jacob Broome has been sailing consistently throughout the championship and have an added incentive of setting the pace from a more favourable handicap.

Fisher & Paykel has a very strong chance to come from behind the two leaders (on the points table) and win the title.

The 3-buoys handicapping system used by the League for the Spring Championship has been successful in giving each team a chance to win a race.

There has been five different winners from the five races sailed so far in the series, and only one of the top six teams (the fourth placed, Smeg) on the points table has had a race win.

As no discard of a team's worst performance in the Spring Championship applies, the result will definitely come down to the final race placing as each finishing place represents one point in the overall score of each team.

Given the present scores, the leading six teams going into the final race are realistically the only ones with the chance of overall victory. The teams, their points and individual race placings so far are:

24 - The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines - Jacob Marks, Alex Marinelli, Matt Doyle - 10, 4, 2, 3, 5
27 - Yandoo - John 'Woody' Winning, Fang Warren, Josh Porebski - 2, 8, 6, 4, 7
28 - Fisher & Paykel - Jordan Girdis, Josh Feldmann, Jacob Broome - 9, 5, 4, 6, 4
31 - Smeg - Nathan McNamara, Jed Cruikshank, Jack Taylor - 8, 3, 7, 12, 1
31 - Balmain - Henry Larkings, Fynn Sprott, Flynn Twomey - 3, 13, 3, 2, 10
32 - Shaw and Partners Financial Services - Emma Rankin, Cam McDonald, Tom Quigley - 4, 6, 10, 9, 3

The early forecast for Sunday afternoon is a 17-18 knots ENE breeze with a tide starting to run out. If that comes to pass, the racing will be even more spectacular for the patrons on the club's spectator ferry.

Don't forget, the regular spectator ferry is back in action as it has been for the past 88 years, and will leave Rose Bay Public Wharf (old wharf) next Sunday at 2pm.

For those unable to get the spectator ferry, you can still join the Australian 18 Footers League's 'Alternative Ferry' in the League's clubhouse and enjoy all the racing action LIVE on the massive screen broadcasting the SailMedia Livestream camera cat coverage of the racing, and there will be special drinks and food offers for those attending who wish to support their favourite team.

It's a really unique way to celebrate the great racing we have seen at the start of the 2023-24 season.

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