It turned out to be a week of ups and downs and generally light conditions, but the team of Seve Jarvin, Sam Newton and Scott Babbage on Gotta Love It 7 shone through when it counted to take the 2014 JJ Giltinan 18ft Skiff Championship. Five bullets, a second and a rare 12th as the drop saw the team finish 17 points clear of the second placed Thurlow Fisher Lawyers (Michael Coxon, Dave O’Connor, Trent Barnabas) who finished with 24. Third place went to Mojo Wine (Chris Nicholson, Mike McKensey, Ricky Bridge) on 28 points.
Two Abandoned Races – a JJ Giltinan first?
The event proper started in what was probably an unprecedented day’s racing, with two general recalls then an abandonment of the windward-leeward course due to a 40° windshift, another general recall before racing on the NE course was abandoned in fading wind and light. Ominously, Thurlow Fisher had made a feast of both attempted races, while 7 appeared to be struggling on the second attempted race.
Race 2 was also a light wind affair, thankfully the committee shortened the course to get a result in as the breeze once again faded late in the day following a lengthy postponement at the start. The race was notable for the efforts of two young skippers, Will Phillips on The Kitchen Maker (crewed by Malcolm Page and Cameron McDonald), and PB Towage from Brisbane (Josh Franklin, Tristan Hamilton and Barry Flanagan) outpacing the fleet to the top mark, PB Towage taking the honours. It should be noted that PB are not renowned for their light air performance, they eventually finished in 23rd. While Gotta Love It 7 eventually won the race by 48 seconds, their lead over Kitchen Maker was as close as 20m over some parts of the final run. Thurlow Fisher finished 3rd just 17 seconds behind, narrowly beating Coopers 62 – Rag & Famish Hotel (Jack Macartney, Mark Kennedy, Peter Harris) by 4 seconds for 3rd.
Race 1 Re-sail
While Monday 3rd March was scheduled as a lay-day, the Committee elected to use it as the best opportunity to conduct the re-sail of Race 1. Asko Appliances (Marcus Ashley-Jones, Jeronimo Harrison, James Dorron) won the race to the first mark from event sponsor Sydney City Marine (David Witt, Tom Clout, Matt Wark). But it was the Brits on Haier Appliances (Rick Peacock, Tristan Hutt, Nick Murray) who, along with Thurlow Fisher, made a great move by splitting from the pack and work the northern shore to jump up to second place by the bottom mark, with Gotta Love It 7 looming in third. The main excitement came in the last lap, Thurlow Fisher had a 25 second lead at the penultimate mark, but this was turned around by Gotta Love It 7 who lead by just 10 seconds as they turned for home. The skiffs split, but neither made any significant gains with Gotta Love It 7 taking their second win of the championship, Thurlow Fisher Lawyers in 2nd and Asko Appliances in 3rd.
Yet again the conditions for Race 3 saw the Committee fly the AP, a very lengthy 45 minute wait unsurprisingly saw a general recall and then the black flag. When the race got underway, CST Composites (Howlie Hamlin, Mike Martin, Nick Catley from USA), Haier Appliances and Fisher & Paykel (Grant Rollerson, Peter Nicholson, Geoff Bauchop) were ruled over and scored BFD. Once underway, it was clearly Kiwi Day with C-Tech (Alex Vallings, Chris Kitchen, Joshua McCormack) and Yamaha (David McDiarmid, Andrew Archibald, Mark Overington) dominating for the entire race, along with Aussie Lumix (Jonathon Whitty, James Hozack, Aron Everett). The three skiffs opened up a sizable gap back to the next pack, and while the lead changed between them, it came down to the last lap with C-Tech picking a better line of breeze to take the win from Yamaha, who pipped Lumix by 5 seconds.
Race 4 saw probably the most impressive win by Gotta Love It 7, sailed in a stronger #2 rig breeze more suited to the champion skiff. They were buried in the pack at the start, but somehow picked clear air and were third behind Mojo Wine and C-Tech at the Beashel Buoy. Mojo held off 7 on the first run, but surrendered the lead on the first cross and from here Gotta Love It 7 never looked back. The breeze faded as a massive storm rolled in over Sydney, and Gotta Love It 7 won by 1:37 from Mojo Wines, with Smeg (Nick Press, Dan Phillips, Dave Ewings) in 3rd place.
Another second rig race, but this time a southerly, again a race dominated by Gotta Love It 7. Appliancesonline.com.au (Michah Lane, Paul Montague, Tom Anderson) took the first mark from 7, but it was the De’Longhi-Rabbitohs (Simon Nearn, Kieryn Cowan, Keagan York) who trumped the fleet taking some 6 places to lead at Obelisk from Mojo Wine, Asko, 7, Yamaha and Sydney City Marine. De’Longhi-Rabbitohs held off some determined challengers for the next two legs, before Gotta Love It 7 pounced, taking a 1:10 lead at Clarke Island, Mojo Wine and Appliancesonline.com.au just adrift. Gotta Love It 7 extended the lead on the final run to win by 2:01. The race for the remaining podium positions was once again fierce and tight, with Appliancesonline taking second from De’Longhi Rabbitohs by 12 seconds, Yamaha in 4th a further 5 seconds back, then Thurlow Fisher in 5th another 10 seconds behind, finally Asko Appliances were 9 seconds behind them in 6th. An incredible 36 seconds between second and sixth!
Race 6 – JJ Giltinan in the bag
Lighter conditions once again greeted the sailors, a 10kt easterly and it was big rigs all around. From the start it looked like it may have been Brit Day, with Pica (Jamie Mears, Stewart Mears and Matt Searle) and Haier Appliances leading the fleet across the Harbour. Seven went right in to shore and it paid, gaining a shift to overtake Haier, Asko, Coopers 62 – Rag & Famish, Knight Frank (Riley Dean, Matt Coutts, John Little – NZ) and Smeg at Rose Bay mark. Haier began the counter-attack but 7 extended their lead by the bottom mark, and the proverbial Fat Lady was loosening the tonsils. The race as on for the minor placings, with a group containing Coopers – Rag & Famish, Haier, C-Tech, Thurlow Fisher, Mojo, Pure Blonde (Nick Daly, John Walton, James Smithers), Asko and Knight Frank all battling it out in close proximity. It came right down to the wire once again with tight margins, 3 seconds 2nd (Thurlow Fisher) to 3rd (Mojo Wine), 11 seconds 3rd to 4th (Coopers 62 – Rag & Famish Hotel).
Gotta Love It 7 won the race by 53 seconds, and in doing so secured the 2014 JJ Giltinan with the final Race 7 to spare. Thurlow Fisher had the opportunity to level it up on points, but a superior set of placings by Team Seven meant she would not be beaten on countback.
Another light seabreeze from the ENE made rig choice simple once again. Yamaha took the early lead, but were pressured from guess who? Gotta Love It 7, of course. They hung on for a 17 second lead at the first mark, followed by Asko Appliances some 1 minute back. The two lead skiffs split but it paid off for Yamaha who extended their lead. Asko had closed on 7, and the two then set off after the Kiwis. Perhaps some local knowledge paid as Asko soon took the lead with Gotta Love It 7 in second. By the time the lead skiffs hoisted the spinnakers for the last run home, 7 was leading and seemed destined for a “perfect” regatta score. However Asko managed to roll 7 with just a few hundred metres left of the course, and won the race by 12 seconds, Yamaha finishing third (ironically 7 seconds behind Seven).
All skiffs milled around the finish as the winning skiff received her blue ribbon from the spectator boat as per the time honoured tradition.
How did I go?
I was loathe to pick the podium, probably pretty bad odds if you weren’t picking Seve to equal the Big Fella’s record. C-Tech was only a couple of points from third, despite only featuring in a podium position for Race 3, and Yamaha was in fifth giving NZ two of the top 5. They have a very strong fleet and speaking with one of the Brisbane crew, they are about to embark on a program of building their own new skiffs over the next 5-10 years, using NZ local builders and riggers. With a pedigree in other development classes such as the 12ft skiff / R Class, these guys will feature predominantly in future JJ Giltinan championships. I did say that Thurlow Fisher and Mojo Wine would be up there, and they were.
But watching the live streaming of the mid-week races, it was clear as to why Gotta Love It 7 earned the reputation to be marked as favourites before the regatta. The crew work was sharp, watching Sam Newton dust a big rig spinnaker on his own while Seve and Scott remained on the wire was just jaw-dropping, other crews tried but just weren’t to the same level. The team excelled in the second rig conditions, and were able to change gears with ease as the breeze went downrange – but they remain fast enough with the big rig to continue at the front of the fleet with confidence. They also managed to claw their way through the fleet on several starts, this is something that is extremely difficult to pull off in a tight Harbour confine and a large fleet.
Well done Seve, Sam and Scott! Good luck to Seve, Sam, and GAGS friend Alexandra South (ViaGoGo) who are featuring in the Extreme Sailing Series as well!
Images on this post courtesy of Frank Quealey – Australian 18 Footers League