Sails : April May 2010
18FT SKIFFS 044 the birth ofthe exciting world of 18-foot Skiff Racing as we know it today occurred on Sydney Harbour on Australia Day, 1892. Its father was Mark Foy, a local businessman who loved sailing and believed the Harbour to be the world’s best aquatic playground. He was disappointed that, unlike many other sports, sailing attracted practically no public interest. Foy was quick to realise that the sailors themselves were responsible as they made no attempt to cater for the public. They raced over a 12- mile course and were out of sight for up to two hours at a time, with no attempt to entertain spectators while the boats were out of sight. A complicated handicapping system caused further delay while the winner of each race was determined later in the clubhouse. Foy was determined to change this situation and came up with a series of initiatives that he believed would popularise sailing as an exciting spectator sport. The rest is history and Sydneysiders have now enjoyed the colour and spectacle of 18-footer racing on for over a century. Foy’s plan was split into three simple steps. Firstly, racing must be exciting and faster. Second, boats had to be more colourful and more easily identifed than simply by a number on the sails. And third, the race winner should be decided on a frst-past-the-post basis, without the complication of handicapping. The major challenge for Foy was producing a faster racer, but he solved this with the frst of the 18-footers, which was an open, centreboard boat with a light hull (for the time), an eight-foot (2.4m) beam and only 30 inches (76cm) amidships. It carried a typical crew of 14 (believe it or not this was a small number compared to the previous generation of boats with 25 crew) and the boats had a huge spread of sail that gave them unmatched aquaplaning speed downwind for racing boats of the time. Foy’s original idea of having striped sails to identify each boat had to be abandoned due to the excessive cost of manufacturing varying designs for registration. His alternative was for each boat to have a colourful emblem on its mainsail – a tradition which continues to this day, although these days the emblem is almost exclusively the logo of a corporate sponsor, making 18-footers the fastest moving billboards on the harbour. When Foy tried to enter his revolutionary new boats with the Anniversary Regatta Committee of 1892, they were rejected as the committee believed that “such badges were not in keeping with the dignity of the oldest regatta in the southern hemisphere.” FLEETING MOMENTS Right: Gotta Love It 7, en route to victory. Below right: The fleet sets off in the 2010 Giltinans World Championships.
June July 2010