Twenty eight 18 foot Skiffs from six countries lined up in Sydney Harbour yesterday afternoon for the traditional invitation race that precedes the seven heat series for the JJ Giltinan Trophy, which started in earnest today.
Like any non-scoring practice race, this one should not be taken as anything more than a rough guide to form, but in the usual way of things, the leading contenders for the championship managed to finish in the top ten places. For the record, Casio Seapathfinder skippered by local sailor Michael Coxon, sailed an excellent race in the variable easterly breeze to finish in first place, ahead of RMW Marine skippered by Rob Greenhalgh, with Dan Johnson in the middle of the boat as usual, but joined on this occasion by Rob's brother Peter. Following a spectacular pitchpole capsize in training a couple of days ago, when Dan took a trip round the forestay and hit the jib track a fearsome blow with his head, he is now sporting a neat line in crash helmets to protect his stitches.
Trevor Barnabas, the winner of this event on five occasions, gained places steadily throughout the race to finish third on Omega Smeg, while reigning champion Howie Hamlin from the USA did the opposite, and brought General Electric home in sixth position after challenging for the lead earlier in the race.
The one certainty this race confirmed is that the series is going to be very hard fought. There is tremendous British interest on this occasion, with a record presence of nine boats, all here with serious intentions of putting in a good performance but also prepared to put up with the unusual weather conditions of blue skies and blazing sunshine.
Invitation Race finishing order:
1. Casio Pathfinder, Michael Coxon, AUS
2. RMW Marine, Rob Greenhalgh, GBR
3. Omega Smeg, Trevor Barnabas, AUS
4. Asko Appliances, David Lumb, AUS
5. Avaya, Peter Morrison, AUS
6. General Electric, Howard Hamlin, USA
7. Total Recall, Tony Hannan, AUS
8. Yandoo, John Winning, AUS
9. Fisher & Paykel, Grant Rollerson, AUS
10. Rag & Famish Hotel, Warwick Rooklyn, AUS