Australian Championship

Rag & Famish Hotel approaches the round mark (SailMedia)

NSW 18ft skiff champion is out of action 

Last Sunday’s Race 1 of the Australian 18ft skiff Championship resulted in a well-deserved win for the Andoo team of John Winning Jr, Seve Jarvin and Peter Harris, and the 2023 JJ Giltinan champions are favourites to add the national title to an already impressive record, but the big surprise to come from the race was the late withdrawal of NSW champion John ‘Woody’ Winning as skipper of Yandoo. 

Less than an hour before the start of Sunday’s race, ‘Woody’ informed officials that he would not be skippering Yandoo in the race and for, at least, the remainder of the championship due to a painful hip problem which has deteriorated over the past few months. 

According to ‘Woody’, “I was having trouble during the recent NSW championship, but hopeful that I could hang on until the end of the season before having an operation.” 

“On Sunday, I was hopeful that I could sail but realised that the problem was worse than I thought and fortunately Micah Lane was able to fill in for me at late notice.” 

“My surgeon is presently on leave but I expect to be able to have an operation in February to relieve some of the pain, and allow me to get back in the boat.  Regardless of the outcome, it’s unlikely I will be able to contest the 2024 JJ Giltinan Championship in March.” 

With ‘Woody’ out of action, his son John Winning Jr and the Andoo crew were near faultless in taking out the first race of the nationals in a South East wind ranging from 10-20 knots on Sydney Harbour. 

Micah Lane, a former Australian 18ft skiff champion, did a great job filling-in for ‘Woody’, and along with Yandoo’s regular crew of Fang Warren and Lewis Brake, was leading the fleet before a wild capsize ruined their chance with just four legs of the course still to be completed. 

Despite the capsize, Yandoo still managed to finish in second place, 1m36s behind Andoo and rates as possibly the biggest threat to the 2023 JJs champion. 

Sunday’s race wasn’t a great guide to form as there were a number of factors which took away the potential to compare boat-for-boat performance. 

The defending Australian champion Finport Finance team, led by Keagan York, and the up-and-coming young Balmain team, led by Henry Larkings, were both recalled for an OCS which put them well behind most of the fleet for the first leg of the course. 

Balmain managed to fight her way back to finish in fourth place, Finport Finance’s day, however, was over after an incident with a ferry forced the team to retire, and later request redress for average points in the championship.  A decision on that request is still to come. 

While news surrounding the leading challengers to the Andoo team was not good after Sunday, it is now a real boost to one of the best young teams in the Australian 18 Footers League fleet. 

Kirk Mitchell (skipper), Andrew Stephenson (sheet) and Daniel Barnett (bow) set up a brand new Van Munster-built hull at the beginning of the season and progressively improved the new, unsponsored boat’s performance to finish a close third behind Yandoo and Andoo at the recently completed NSW Championship. 

Still unsponsored last Sunday, the strong young team continued to impress. It challenged the leaders throughout the entire course before finishing an excellent third, again behind the very experienced Andoo and Yandoo teams. 

Now, it’s great, and most deserving, news for the team as it has secured sponsorship for the rest of the 2023-24 season, which includes the JJ Giltinan World Championship, on Sydney Harbour in March, from the Australian-owned Vaikobi sportswear manufacturing company, which produces a wide range of high performance sailing and other watersports clothing and equipment. 

Another leading contender for the title is Rag & Famish Hotel, but another commitment prevented the regular skipper and crew from contesting the race.  In their absence, skipper Beau Junk, Finn Rodowicz and Harry Hall put up a great performance to finish fifth, after being within the top four throughout most of the race. 

Prior to next Sunday’s Race 2 of the Australian Championship, the fleet will be on the harbour again on Friday afternoon (January 19) from 5.30pm to take part in the three sprint race Balmain Cup.  A spectator ferry will follow the racing and SailMedia livestream video team will also cover all the action on 

For Sunday’s Race 2 of the Australian Championship, the League’s regular spectator ferry will follow that action, leaving Double Bay Public Wharf at 2pm.   

Tickets are on sale    

If you prefer, you can still join the League’s ‘Alternative Ferry’ in the clubhouse and enjoy all the racing action LIVE on the massive screen broadcasting the SailMedia Livestream camera cat coverage.  It’s a really unique way to celebrate the great racing and all 18 footer supporters are welcome to come down to the clubhouse ‘Alternative Ferry’.          

If you can’t get out onto Sydney Harbour, or come to the club’s ‘Alternative’ Ferry’, you can still watch it LIVE on

Frank Quealey
Australian 18 Footers League Ltd.