A New Zealand team hasn't won the JJ Giltinan regatta since 1974 but four Kiwi crews are keen to change that next week.
The JJs are considered the pinnacle of 18ft skiff racing and David McDiarmid, Matt Steven and Brad Collins came agonisingly close to claiming the trophy last year on Sydney Harbour. They won four of the seven races but still finished third out of 26 boats.
“It was brutal,” said McDiarmid.
This year's regatta starts on Friday with an invitational race before the serious racing starts on Saturday.
The Honda Marine team, who sail out of the Royal Akarana Yacht Club, have enjoyed good success in recent times, including a dominant performance at last year's 18ft skiff European championships on Lake Garda when they won 13 of the 14 races. They also won the 2017 Anzac regatta and New Zealand 18ft skiff championships so will go into what is known as the world championships of 18ft skiff racing with high expectations.
“We are going to Sydney this year powered by Honda and, apart from that, we have not changed too many things," McDiarmid said. "Most importantly, we have managed to keep the same crew together and we are all very motivated to bring the trophy home.”
They will be joined in Sydney by three other New Zealand teams, Knight Frank, C-Tech and Maersk Line who have been providing good competition for Honda Marine, although all four crews have had to contend with some unusual weather patterns in Auckland.
The Knight Frank team of Riley Dean (skipper), Luke Stevenson (main) and Tim Snedden (bow) are also looking to break the drought in Sydney and will be looking for a better start to their regatta than 12 months ago.
“Get in front and stay in front,” Stevenson said of their plan. “But obviously that’s easier said than done.
“Realistically, we are looking to make sure we are in the mix after the first half of the regatta. Last year we had a really tough start with a couple of gear breakages and an OCS, leaving us well down the leaderboard.
“This year the aim is to go into the back half of the regatta in touch with the leaders without any terrible races on the board. From there, we can start to be a little more aggressive and take a few risks to see if we can make some magic happen."
All races will live streamed via 18 Footers TV on YouTube and via their website.
New Zealand teams competing in the JJ Giltinan regatta in Sydney from March 3-11:
Honda Marine – Dave McDiarmid, Matt Steven, Brad Collins
Knight Frank – Riley Dean, Luke Stevenson, Tim Snedden
C-Tech – Alex Vaillings, Sam Trethewey, Matt Coutts
Maersk Line – Josh Porebski, Jack Simpson, David Hazard