Rookie Team Takes On The Big Guns

High speed spinnaker run in last Sunday's 18-24 knot southerly wind on Sydney Harbour
The recent performances by the rookie Shaw and Partners Financial Services 18ft Skiff team may have come as a surprise to many casual observers but it is no surprise to those who know the individual members’ sailing records and the obstacles the team has had to overcome earlier in their rookie season together in the 18s.

Over the past four weeks, skipper Jim Colley, sheet hand Shaun Connor and bow man Harry Bethwaite have put together a series of top placings which has the team currently in fourth place overall in the Australian Championship.

After missing Race 1 of the Australian Championship, when the team’s hull was being repaired at the boat builders, the team has shown its true ability with two second placing results, as well as one fourth, two sixth placings and one seventh.

In Race 7 of the championship, the team led on the spinnaker run home only to go down to the defending champion, and current series leader, tech2 by just 17s.

With one more race still to be sailed in the championship, the Shaw and Partners Financial Services team is conservatively encouraged about the possible result.

According to Jim Colley, “Our performance during the Australian Championship has largely been due to us reaching a baseline level of speed, handling and communication which that has allowed us to get our heads out of the boat and race the fleet and the wind. The results have been encouraging, however there is still plenty of work to be done to catch the top teams.”

The Australian Championship is the final lead in to next month’s JJ Giltinan world Championship, which will be sailed on Sydney Harbour from March 6-14.

Earlier in the 2020-2021 Season, under a new handicap system, the team was racing in a group which included tech2 (Jack Macartney), Winning Group (John Winning Jr), Smeg (Michael Coxon), and Finport Finance (Keagan York), so it wasn’t surprising that Shaw and Partners was not high up on the result sheets at the time.

Jim wasn’t particularly concerned, “For us, the first half of the season was all about learning more about the boat and the racing, so we sailed each race with no specific results objective. We had moments where we put together solid sections of each race, and over time these moments became more sustained.”

There is no doubt that the team’s future looks very promising and a wonderful addition to the Australian 18 Footers League fleet.

Jim Colley says he began sailing at age five, when his father built him a little timber boat in the backyard; “At 10 I decided to try racing. I began sailing Manly Juniors at Avalon Sailing Club and, despite being terrified in anything over 15 knots, I found that I enjoyed the fast-paced decision making and tactical game that racing provided.”

“Over the years, I started racing Opti’s, then 29ers, with Shaun as my crew. I was unbelievably fortunate to travel to Europe and race in several world championships and other international events throughout my teenage years, and after leaving school decided that I would continue to pursue my goal of representing Australia at the Olympics in the 49er class.”

“After sailing together for two years, Shaun and I were gearing up for our third assault on the European 49er circuit when two days before flying out COVID-19 put an end to our plans.”

“Around a similar time, the opportunity arose to join Harry Bethwaite on the Shaw and Partners 18ft Skiff for the 20/21 season, which we grabbed with both hands. This was an amazing opportunity made possible by Earl Evans from Shaw and Partners and Pat Langley from Vaikobi, and allowed us to get the racing fix that we had been craving.”

“The 18s have such a rich history in Australian yachting and after spending my youth looking at photos of Channel 7 in magazines this was a dream come true.”

“Being at the base of the learning curve again has been immensely refreshing and satisfying. Every day you get off the water you know you have improved, and that is what motivates us.”

“Over the years, I have learnt to be intrinsically motivated, where mastery of oneself and the boat is the ultimate goal, rather than the results themselves. Having Harry on-board has been a great sounding board for Shaun and I. He has provided us with the experience, from many seasons in the 18s, as well as being patient while we figure techniques out for ourselves.”

“As we approach the JJ’s we feel we are becoming more solid as a team, and beginning to understand the boat and the 18 footers style of racing. We are still a long, long way from mastery, but if we can continue our trajectory over the next month we are confident we can put on a good show.”

“Currently, around my 49er and 18ft campaigns, I am in my final year of Mechanical Engineering at UNSW completing my thesis and spending a lot of time coaching the next generation of 29er sailors up in Pittwater.”

As Jim mentioned, he and Shaun have been sailing together for some time in both the 29er and 49er classes before taking on the 18s for the first time this season.

Harry Bethwaite, the son of twice JJ Giltinan world 18ft Skiff champion, and designer of the 29er and 49er Olympic class boats, has already established himself in the 18s. He sailed with James Dorron for three seasons, and was a member of the Asko Appliances team which won the 2018-2019 Australian Championship.

The current Australian Championship continues next Sunday when the Australian 18 Footers League conducts Race 9, the final race of the championship, on Sydney Harbour.

The defending champion tech2 team and Smeg, the only threat to tech2 retaining the title, are equal on 16 points, but tech2 has a two points lead over Smeg on net points after each team discards its present worst performance.

Smeg would need to defeat tech2 by at least two placings to have any chance of taking out the title.

While only tech2 and Smeg have any chance of winning the title, and Noakesailing can finish no better or worse than third overall, the battle for fourth place is a three-way battle separated by just two points.

The top ten placings on the NET points table are:
Tech2 Jack Macartney 11

Smeg Michael Coxon 13

Noakesailing Sean Langman 30

Shaw and Partners Financial Services Jim Colley 37

Finport Finance Keagan York 38

Winning Group John Winning Jr. 39

Yandoo John Winning 43

Andoo Marcus Ashley-Jones 53

The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines Aron Everett 58

The Kitchen Maker-Caesarstone Jordan Girdis 70

Spectators can follow the racing on board the club’s spectator ferry, however due to the present COVID-19 policy, numbers are limited. Booking online through is essential.

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 by clicking on the ’18 Footers TV’ link.

Follow all the club’s racing throughout the 2020-2021 Racing Season:

Club Website
Twitter @18skiff
Instagram @18skiff
Facebook International 18Ft Skiff

Frank Quealey
Australian 18 Footers League Ltd.