Four times world 18 footer champion, but ……
Now that four-times world 18 footer champion Michael Coxon has decided to hang up his wetsuit, it’s a good time to reflect on his 18 footer career and a record that could have even been so much more impressive.
Competing in a sailing class like the Australian 18 footers, which has a 131 years old history, it’s not surprising that there are many skippers who were ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time’ and whose record has been affected through bad luck or because they were competing during an era of a great champion or a great champion team.
David Porter quickly comes to mind as a five-time runner-up in the World Championship during the ‘golden years’ of champion skippers from Australia and New Zealand. Another is John ‘Woody’ Winning, who was runner-up to the legendary Iain Murray in two World and three Australian championships in the late 1970s-early 80s.
Both won the World Championship. Fortunately for David, he won in KB, at Brisbane in 1975 while ‘Woody’ had to wait a further 19 years before winning his championship, in AMP Centrepoint, on Sydney Harbour in 2000.
The most unfortunate skipper, however, to contest the Giltinan world championship, since its first regatta in 1938, is Michael Coxon.
As well as his four Giltinan world championships and five Australian 18 footer championship victories, Michael was runner-up in SIX Giltinan world championship regattas. Each time to Seve Jarvin and his Gotta Love It 7 team.
Michael’s four worlds 18 footer victories were unique as they were won in boats carrying four different sponsor names, Casio Seapathfinder, Fiat, Thurlow Fisher Lawyers and Smeg.
Michael’s 18 footer career began with the Australian 18 Footers League’s fleet in the 2000-01 season, in a boat sponsored by Sunday Telegraph newspaper (News Ltd), and competed in twenty of the next twenty-three seasons with the club.
He recalls, before joining the 18s ranks he had competed in the 420s then briefly in the 49ers, in an attempt to contest the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, and enjoyed competing with his father, Richard, in a number of overseas regattas in the Etchells.
Surely, the memory of the 2022-23 season must be a big disappointment to Michael with the memory of what could have been at the 2023 Giltinan Championship, last March, when the Smeg team was challenging strongly for another victory.
Coxon, Ricky Bridge and Tom Anderson had started the season slowly and had timed their ‘run’ to the worlds well with some outstanding performances in a variety of conditions in late January-early February.
The team narrowly missed a victory in the Australian Championship then suffered a tremendous set-back two weeks later when sheet hand Ricky Bridge suffered a serious leg injury, while the team was leading a club championship race, in southerly winds gusting to 35-knots, which ended his season.
2018-19 Australian champion James Dorron stepped in to take Ricky’s place at the 2023 JJs, and the Smeg team was locked in a tremendous battle with Andoo’s team of John Winning Jr, Seve Jarvin and Sam Newton as the two brilliant crews lined up for the seventh of nine races to decide the 2023 champion.
Both teams were locked on identical scores of 22 points (net 16 after each team discarded its worst result to that time) as they faced a 10-knot easterly breeze with an outgoing tide.
Smeg’s team took a narrow lead over Andoo at the first weather mark, then opened up a lead of one minute when the fleet returned to the weather mark on the following lap of the course. At that point, Andoo was in fifth place.
The quirky nature of Easterly winds on Sydney Harbour can create a substantial lead then take it back just as easily so it wasn’t too surprising that Smeg’s lead evaporated on the third (final) beat to the Rose Bay weather mark.
There was nothing between the two boats with both crews fighting for the lead as they attempted to set spinnakers for the run to the finish line.
Unfortunately, in the moment, Michael slipped off the wing and the race was gone. Minutes later, Michael was thrown against the boom in another capsize and suffered a badly gashed ear injury, which put him in hospital, and out of the next race, two days later.
His chance of a fifth Giltinan world championship victory was gone and the strong Andoo team went on to victory.
Michael’s career in the 18s was always in the true tradition of 18ft skiff racing. He drove his boat to its maximum potential which is why he had so much success over his long career.
Michael Coxon’s Giltinan World Championship record:
2006 Casio Seapathfinder
Michael Coxon’s Australian Championship victories:
2003-04 Casio Seapathfinder
2004-05 Casio Seapathfinder
2010-11 Thurlow Fisher Lawyers
2011-12 Thurlow Fisher Lawyers
2016-17 Thurlow Fisher Lawyers