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Posted by on Oct 14, 2013 in Manic Mondays, US |

Manic Mondays: Australian 18ft Skiffs in San Francisco

A Video by our Digital Vagabond, Sam Greenfield

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Do you remember the international 14 skiff scene from Wind?  This has nothing to do with the whomper.

It was a rainy day and I was either 9 or 10 the first time a sailing instructor at Ram Island Yacht Club cued it up on VHS.  That was the first time I ever saw sailboats planing and defying every budding optimist sailor’s assumed laws of speed and physics.  We were all blown away by that one scene.  Hell, we may have well been watching Star Wars for the first time.

Because no one one sailed skiffs where we lived on the East Coast.

In Noank there were no fleets.  29ers were too expensive.  Growing up in Fisher’s Island Sound, the idea of racing anything other than an optimist, a Bluejay or a 420 was unthinkable.  I even remember when a local dealer brought a brand new 29er to demo at a Thursday night picnic.  What I remember was that we weren’t allowed to touch. Only look. The world of skiff sailing existed solely in Wind. 

Then I went to San Francisco for the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup where the USA1 team -The Force- convinced me to stick around for something other than the AC Finals.

23 Australian 18ft Skiffs racing for the Mark Foy Trophy.

So while everyone was glued to the 34th America’s Cup, here’s what I took away following the 18ft Skiffs in the AC Open:

- The Australian 18ft Skiff is a historic class, dating back over 100 years down under.  They’ve come a long way -and gained a few extra knots- in the evolution from wood to carbon fiber.

- Most of the American Youth Sailing Force’s sailors learned to fix, rig and race skiffs via a Bay Area non-profit called the Skiff Sailing Foundation.  If you live in San Francisco and can’t afford anything other than time and energy get down to the Richmond Yacht Club and get involved.

-The Skiff Sailing Foundation got it’s start thanks to the good folks from down under.  The Australians have been coming to race in San Francisco for over a decade now, and each year they cram old parts, rigs, gear and -sometimes- hulls into their spare container space.  The goodies are handed to the Skiff Sailing Foundation and now an entire generation of young American sailors are sending it in rickety 18ft skiffs. Where else in the world does this happen?

- Australian 18ft Skiffs are all about community.  You won’t find a nicer crowd.  In fact, my first helicopter ride and the source of every aerial shot in this video was thanks to the generosity of Howie Hamlin, a bay area 18ft Skiff sailor.

Thanks mates!