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18ft Skiffs: The Australian 18 Footers League Academy

The Australian 18 Footers League has established an exciting new concept to encourage and educate new recruits, or recently recruited, young sailors to the high-speed world of 18ft Skiff racing.  

According to organisers, The Academy will fast track learning and teach everyone the right way to set up, care for, sail and be a part of the 18 footers. It will introduce the Academy members to the sailors in the fleet, including, matching every new team with a mentor and show how everything works, so they can quickly enjoy the 18 footers club life. It will also ensure that everyone has a fun, and a successful racing season and will ensure that the 18 footers class remains strong and continues to grow.  

Two of the present Smeg team which won the 2021 JJ Giltinan world Championship, Michael Coxon (centre) and Ricky Bridge (right) presented the first meeting (photo Jessica Crisp)

The timing of the 2021 program was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in Sydney but still managed the first meeting, on zoom, with current JJ Giltinan world champions Michael Coxon and Ricky Bridge, on September 15.  

Michael explained, how to set up your boat, what settings they look at as well as crew weight and positioning. He also explained what to check for wear and tear, and how to care for the 18 Footer.  

Along with Ricky, and backed up by Commodore Simon Nearn, they also went over safety in an 18 footer, how the spare air works, caring for personal knives and how they must be easy to access, and the harness and the best gear to wear for comfort and protection.  

Michael is very positive about the academy, “It’s a great initiative from the club. Ricky and I were certainly happy to help kick things off. We basically ran through a very broad take on how to get the boats on the water and how to best stay on top of the water.”  

“No doubt we will all get a chance shortly to discuss and perform things in more detail.”  

Australian 18 Footers League sailing manager and coordinator of the Academy, Jessica Crisp, says it is “a teaching and mentoring program that gives all new teams and crews the tools to become a great 18ft Skiff sailor.”  

 “Each season all new skippers, crews will be invited to join the Sailing Academy. Interested parties can contact the club to join as well, the more the merrier. The new teams are matched with a mentor to help them throughout the season. In the first season, we have invited four new teams to the 18s, along with three teams who had their first season in 2020-21, plus ten individuals.”  

“Teams are scheduled to have training sessions with an experienced coach, and a few mentors would also be attending to cover a variety of topics such as 18ft skiff set-up, what to do, on the water, to make the boat go faster, and how to care for the boat with correct maintenance. Dick Parker from North Sails has also agreed to come down to the 18s and check settings and luff curves, look at the sails, and mast bend, and talk to teams about the rigs.”  

As Jessica points out, “the program is not only good for the competitors, it is also a great initiative to support the club’s overall program, which has been in place for more than 25 years.”  

Finally, after four months of lockdown in Sydney, the NSW Government reacted to the State’s high double vaccination rate and the second meeting was conducted in Double Bay Park, alongside the clubhouse, by the reigning Australian champion Jack Macartney, who spent two and a half hours with the new teams, tunning their rigs for them, and explaining in great detail what he does to his boat to make it go fast.  

Jessica summed up the progress so far, “It has been a great start to the 18 Footers Academy and anyone who would like to join should please contact the club.” 

The newcomers will get their opportunity to ‘mix it’ with their more experienced rivals on Sunday when the Australian 18 Footers League stages Races 1 and 2 of the Spring Championship on the first day’s racing of the 2021-22 season. 

For those unable to make it out onto the water, the club’s live broadcast team will be on Sydney Harbour to capture all the action.  Live streaming is available at www.18footers.com then clicking on the ’18 Footers TV’ link. 

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