Friday saw the lightest wind of the week in the third annual 18 Skiff International Regatta, and John WINNING'S Computer Associates team took whatever air was left out of the competition by running away with victories in the last two races.
Over five days on San Francisco Bay, Winning and his crew of Euan MCNICOL and Jack YOUNG won 5 of the 10 races with no finish worse than third. In the real world he owns six kitchen appliance stores in Australia---"Winning Appliances," what else?
On the extreme edge of the world of sailing, he was the oldest skipper here at 52 but arrived ranked No. 2 in the world and enhanced his status. This victory, his first in the event hosted by the St. Francis Yacht Club after a second and a third the last two years, will go on his resume alongside his JJ Giltinan Trophy (world) Championship four years ago.
Winning's hottest pursuers were fellow Aussie Trevor BARNABAS and Howie HAMLIN of Long Beach, Calif. All had a shot at first place until Winning clinched it in Friday's first race, then won the last one for fun. Barnabas, sailing Omega Smeg with son Trent BARNABAS and Robert GREUTER, took second place overall from Hamlin's West Marine team (Mike MARTIN and Rod HOWELL) on a tiebreaker. .
Barnabas, 49, said going in that it would be his last event after sailing the 18s for a quarter of a century. Despite his strong showing, the five-time JJ Giltinan winner had no change of heart after hauling out his red boat one final time.
"It's good to retire when you're still near the top,"
he said. "I have other things I want to do, and I don't want to put in the effort---and if you don't put in the effort you don't get the results."
Winning will miss his old rival. They've been sailing against each other since 1979. Barnabas said he plans to build a catamaran and go cruising.
"He might do that and decide he wants to get back into skiff sailing,"
Winning said. "He's definitely a racing bloke."
The last day of racing started about 1 1/2 hours late at 2:25. While sunny and warm, it was relatively windless, so all eight teams switched to the big light-air rigs---masts 34 feet tall instead of 31, with about 25 per cent more main sail area and larger spinnakers.
Then, with everyone committed, someone noted that whitecaps were popping up on the bay.
"Do you have any more good news?"
There was an elevated level of anxiety among the crews as they left the beach, but the Aussies could have said, "No worries mate."
Winning shot out of the start like a kangaroo on steroids and was gone.
"We tacked very early and got to the breeze first,"
he said, "and we came out of it with a very nice lead. Once we're in front, I don't think anyone is faster than us."
They won that race by more than a minute, with Hamlin's West Marine second, but, with the title in hand, had to work a bit for the second victory. Grant ROLLERSON, sailing Australia's Fisher & Paykel with David CUNNINGHAM and Chris CLEARY, built what appeared to be a solid lead on the first lap.
"Upwind we just kept plugging along going wide on the right, and he went to the shore,"
Winning said, "and when he came back we were smothering him."
As for being overpowered with the big rig, Winning said, "It was definitely the right call. The wind never got above 12 [knots]. We certainly weren't overpowered."
With the mild conditions, there were only a couple of capsizes. The most dramatic was when Dalton BERGAN'S Vodka Surprise lost middle crew Jeff NELSON overboard and he had to swim a considerable distance back to the boat.
The regatta is one of the class's three international events, along with the European International Championship and the JJ Giltinan Trophy Championship, the class's premier event contested annually in Australia since 1938. Full results are available on the event website at the address below.