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18ft Skiffs: Team Vic is coming to the JJs

by Frank Quealey 21 Feb 05:56 GMT March 1-10 2024

After four years of Covid and the aftermath of the pandemic, the Australian 18 Footers League was determined to get the world's premier 18 footer championship back on track with representatives from as many countries and Australian States as possible to take on the club's local fleet for the coveted prize.

With international entries from Germany, New Zealand, UK and Denmark, together with the return of the two top Queenslanders, it was great news when a Victorian team announced that it wanted to also enter the regatta.

Scott Cunningham and Brody Riley came to Sydney early in November 2023 and picked up the former Noakes Blue skiff from the Australian 18 Footers League, now they are about to return with the boat and Scott's brother David to contest the JJ Giltinan 18ft skiff Championship, from March 1-10 on Sydney Harbour.

Team Vic is Scott Cunningham (skipper), Brody Riley (main) and David Cunningham (bow).

Scott has been sailing skiffs since he was 13 years old, starting in B14's. He sailed B14's for 10 years and competed in four world titles, finished second in two of them and won a Youth World title. He has also competed in multiple national titles, of which he won one and had four second placings.

After a short stint in 49ers, he moved into the I14's, and has competed in the class for the past ten years. Scott has competed in four world titles in the 14 with three top-10 finishes; the best being a fourth in Weymouth, England. His best result at an I14 Nationals was a second overall.

When Scott competes for the first time at a JJ Giltinan Championship in two weeks time, he will recognise the familiar face of Queensland's leading skipper, Dave Hayter (Big Foot Bags & Covers) who is a four times Australian I14 champion.

According to Scott, "18 footers have always been an attraction for me. I flew up from Melbourne a few times to sail with Katie Love a few years ago and since then it was a goal to compete in the JJ's and run a campaign."

"All three of us are proud members of the McCrae Yacht Club on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria and sailing the boat at home generated a lot of interest with plenty of 'peanut gallery' around to offer their advice. The white sandy beach, green lawn and turquoise water has made it very appealing to get out sailing."

"We're excited to compete in our first JJ and are keen to hit the ground running. Getting to sail with my brother is an added bonus for both me, and the rest of my family, who will be watching intently."

Brody is a former Australian Laser 4.7 and Laser Radial champion who has sailed in a number of classes, including Lasers, 49ers, 470s, I14s, B14s

After Covid, Brody began coaching with the Victorian Institute of Sport and has coached at several Laser nationals, which included a 1st, 2nd and 3rd Male at the 2022 Nationals. He was Victorian Coach of Year in 2023. He was also ILCA 6 Youth Worlds Coach, Texas USA, 2022 and ILCA 7 Australian Sailing Team Future's Coach, 2023 (coaching in Europe at Palma and Hyeres).

Speaking about his attraction to the 18s, Brody says, "Racing 18s on Sydney Harbour is iconic, and a privilege. I describe it to my other mates as being the V8 Supercars of the sailing world; a league every young sailor aspires to after having watched it on DVD when I was growing up."

"The high calibre of sailors the class attracts is one of the cards that draws me to the 18s; it is an opportunity to race head to head with the best skiff sailors in Australia. Perhaps the biggest factor that brought me to 18s is the thrill of being on one - there is nothing else like it. The high speeds and heart stopping moments hooked me instantly. (I will never get over the sheer size and scale of the hull and rig.)."

"I love the feeling of the boat jumping downwind in a breeze, when everything goes silent for a split second as the boat flies through the air. There is simply nothing else like sailing an 18."

So what does Brody think about competing at the JJs, "18s and JJ's are synonymous - you can't have one without the other. To be an 18 sailor is to be on a pursuit to win a JJ's and be crowned a legend of the sport. Winning a JJs is the ultimate dream.

David Cunningham started sailing B14 skiffs at 15 years old, with his father Ian, competing in many world titles, and had many podium races; coming third in the world twice.

He progressed to the 49er for a short stint with Scott, before moving to the I14 and sailed the 49er with Ian, before they also moved to the I14 a year or so later. He currently sails the I14 with Ian when Team Vic 18 isn't sailing.

According to David, "I'm excited to be sailing the awesome 18 footer, and having the experience with Scott makes it even better."

I can only recall two Victorian entries into a JJ Giltinan World Championship. It was during the late 1980s during the period just prior to the introduction of the 'New 18' Iain Murray designed hull.

It's a big challenge for the rookie Victorian team but if enthusiasm counts for anything then it may be the beginning of a future for further challenges by the Team Vic crew and other Victorian sailors.

Team Vic will also be competing with nine other visiting teams. Black Knight (Heinrich von Bayern) and Hoefle Haus (Holger Hoefle) from Germany, ASCC (Eli Liefting), ASCC2 (Craig Keenan) and RAYC (Jack Frewin) from New Zealand, Big Foot Bags & Covers (Dave Hayter) and C-Tech (Josh Sloman) from Queensland, as well as Denmark's Jesper Brondum (Bloody Dave) and the UK's Luke Goble (UK91).

Note: There will be no spectator ferry next Sunday (25 February) and there will be no livestream by SailMedia.

Due to heavy restrictions being placed on the use of Sydney Harbour next Sunday, the League's race, which is the final race for the Club Championship and Season Point Score and is the final race before the JJ Giltinan world Championship, cannot be sailed at its usual time and will commence at 12:00.

Don't Forget: 75th JJ Giltinan 18ft Skiff Championship 2024

Race Dates:

Friday - March 1, 2024 - Invitation Race (NO FERRY ON THIS DAY)
Saturday - March 2, 2024 - Race 1, George Calligeros Trophy
Sunday - March 3, 2024 - Race 2, Cliff Monkhouse Memorial Trophy
Tuesday - March 5, 2024 - Races 3 & 4, Alan Cole Memorial Trophy
Wednesday - March 6, 2024 - Races 5 & 6, A.J. Reynolds Trophy
Thursday - March 7, 2024 - Race 7, Bill Miller Memorial Trophy
Saturday - March 9, 2024 - Race 8, Big Kite Memorial Trophy
Sunday - March 10, 2024 - Race 9, Ribbon and J.J. Giltinan Trophy

Racing on each day will start at 2:45 (On multiple race days, the second race will be as soon as practical after the completion of the previous race).

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