Twin wins put the wind up leading contenders

January 9, 2020Announcement

A surprise ‘daily double’ by Newcastle Financial Planning Group (NFPG) has put the wind up the leading contenders in the 2020 Australian 16ft and 13ft Skiff Championships at Port Stephens, on a day where pressure was high but the breeze otherwise light and languid.

The flawless performance by the Belmont 16s crew of Ben Bruniges, Dave Hickey and Justin Sharrock was starkly contrasted by sweeping inconsistency among the remaining skiffs. In fact, with two drops allowed under the new nine-race point score, most boats have now had their quota.

Only two races remain, and the forecast for tomorrow and Saturday is for far stronger conditions that will make boat-handling mistakes pay even more.

Race 6 started under the threat of black-flag disqualification, following two general recalls. There was chaos at the pin end and carnage at the marks, with overnight leaders Sutech Musto Racing, Koreman Marine Composites (KMC) and Brydens Lawyers all caught up.

At one stage a 13ft skiff tangled spectacularly with a 16ft skiff under kite, while another took split-second evasive action – fortunately no damage was done.

NFPG avoided the mayhem to virtually sail their own race. They were pursued by clubmate Emptyjets (Rob Flanagan) who was having one of his better days until pipped at the post by Nathan Wilmot’s Imei. Sutech Building Consultants snuck into fourth, ahead of Growthbuilt and the fast-finishing Toohey’s Extra Dry.

Race 7 also saw a general recall before getting away cleanly. Imei somehow found room at the boat end and headed right, with Sutech Musto covering, but this time the left shoreline paid dividends. NFPG had again read it correctly and battled to the finish with Growthbuilt (Ryan Wilmot).

Felix Grech on KMC showed his class by posting a crucial third place, while Eric’s Storage capped off a strong day with a fourth placing.

Ben Bruniges couldn’t conceal his delight nor disbelief with the day’s outcome, against such a strong field.

“The boat’s got it in it, the crew’s got it in it, but if you’d asked me today whether we’d get two wins I’m not so sure,” he said. “We generally like the fresher conditions [so] it’s a good feeling.

“In the first race, about 30 seconds before the start, we saw a shift on the right side of the course. We were mid-line, and luckily could peel out to the right. Then once you get the lead it becomes a lot easier to get around the course.

“In the second race we started towards the pin because there was better pressure to the left, and again we nailed the layline. The guys sailed exceptionally today, we held our nerve and got the results.”

Sutech Musto scored a 19th and 11th, never quite clicking into gear.

“That’s about as tough as it gets,” skipper Daniel Turner lamented, post-race. “At times it looked like we were on the right part of the course but then 20 boats would go around the outside of us.

“Pretty painful, but I said at the start of the week that everyone would have their bad days. This was ours, but the forecast is looking much more positive for tomorrow.”

Any thoughts of a late charge by pre-regatta favourites Imea were also snuffed out by an uncharacteristic 15th in Race 7.

“It’s pretty tough to be consistent in those conditions,” skipper Wilmot said. “Ben Bruniges did it well but otherwise it was very up-and-down. In the second race we got it very wrong.

“It was nice to get 2nd in the earlier race and pass a few boats but it’s too little too late. We’ll still battle away though over the final two races; hopefully get a good blow, put the little rig in, and see how we go.”

With one drop factored in after races 6 and 7, KMC sheds its 15th to take the lead on 25 points. Sutech Musto and Brydens are locked on 32 while Tooheys Extra Dry and NFPG sit on 33 points.

In the 13ft Skiff series, Harry Parker’s AWOL enjoyed a 1-second victory over James Downey in Bigfoot in race 6, however Downey made amends in race 7 to lead home Ebix (Nathan Lilley) and Bruce (Will Divola)

Racing resumes at 2.55pm tomorrow, with ex-skiffies warmly invited to watch the racing from the Port Stephens Sailing and Aquatic Club veranda while reminiscing about the old days.


TED lands a 1-2 punch to star on Day 3

January 7, 2020Announcement

There were more ‘lefts’ and ‘rights’ thrown than in a pub stoush during the 2020 Australian 16ft and 13ft Skiff Championships at Port Stephens today, with the fleet going vastly separate ways in intriguing conditions during races 4 and 5.

The day’s opening battle commenced after a 1-hour postponement, with the seabreeze deterred by a brief southerly rain band. Eventually it settled into a puffy 5-10 knot easterly that divided tactical opinions on the work. Boats searched everywhere but the middle for pressure.

Ultimately, though, it was the Tooheys Extra Dry (TED) crew who landed the critical 1-2 in the finishing order to be crowned boat of the day – a fitting result as their home club of Belmont 16-footers was race-day sponsor.

Sailing his seventh season in the 16s, 22-year-old skipper Henry Makin has brother Grant on sheet and bowman Nigel Hale. They refined their skiff considerably during the off-season with ambitions of cracking the top 5.

“Our secret today was pretty much keeping it simple,” Makin said. “We started at the pin, kept to the left, and didn’t get involved with other boats. Really, it was a one-way track where you either had to go far right or left.”

TED led at every mark in Race 4 to hold out Bryden’s Lawyers by 30 seconds. Nathan Wilmot’s Imea had its best finish to date, crossing third.

Koreman Marine Composites (KMC) then eclipsed TED in the next heat to become the first skiff to post two wins, following on from their Race 2 success yesterday. It followed a fourth placing in Race 4.

Felix Grech, Tom Potter and Paul Darmanin were rarely off the podium at last year’s national titles and they chose the perfect moment to make their move as the 2020 regatta passed its halfway mark, with four races remaining.

KMC was built 15 years ago by Brett Van Munster but sports new carbon rigs and TruFlo sails.

“We’ve generally done the development work ourselves because we like to trust in our own abilities. I think we’re as quick as anything going around in most conditions,” Grech said.

In overall standings, only six points separate the top 4 before drops.

Sutech Musto Racing (Daniel Turner) leads despite falling well back in the pack during Race 4. They clawed back to the top 10 at the finish, then it was then business as usual in Race 5 with a third placing.

KMC jumped to second, displacing Bryden’s Lawyers, while TED is now fourth on 27 points.

Bryden’s wily skipper Lee Knapton said the crew was hanging in there, waiting for the finale.

“We’re happy with the way the boat’s going, so we’ll enjoy the lay-day tomorrow and reboot for Thursday,” he said. “You can definitely win this regatta without winning a race.”

SKEelectrical again revelled in the fresher conditions of Race 5 to finish fourth, shrugging off its poor light-air form.

“We’re a bit slow in the light stuff but when there’s a bit of puff we’re up there with the top fuelers,” explained helmsman Danny Anderson. “Seeing the other boats going off on tangents today was a bit of a worry, but in the end we came up with a game-plan and committed to it.

“If we can get some more fresh stuff from hereon, we’ll be happy.”

Queensland’s Data#3 is one of many skiffs having up-and-down results in the fluctuating conditions, although skipper Brad Colledge still has reason to smile as it’s a learning experience for his crew, Keith Jones and Cooper Richmond, who are fresh graduates from the 13ft skiff class.

“We’ve got to learn the art of putting the right rig in,” Colledge said. “We put the big rig in on Day 1, which was the wrong call, and today we went with our small rig for the first race then came in to change up for the second race.

“In the end we missed the second start by four minutes. We still passed about 10 boats so can’t complain.”

In the 13ft skiff class, Bigfoot Bags and Covers (James Downey) leads Employment Hero (Niall Powers) by a point, while AWOL (Harry Parker) and Ebix (Nathan Lilley) share 3rd.

Racing continues on Thursday, January 10, with heats 6 and 7.



KOREMAN Felix Grech 22
GROWTHBUILT Ryan Wilmot 36
NFPG Ben Bruniges 46
IMEI Nathan Wilmot 48
EAST COAST MARINE Matt Rhys-Jones 59

Light and tight racing springs surprises on day 2

January 6, 2020Announcement

“You should’ve been here last week” was the locals’ retort today as the wind gods took a rare holiday at the tourist town of Port Stephens, leaving the Australian 16ft and 13ft Skiff Championship fleet to navigate their way through a vacillating east-sou’east breeze.

With two races sailed, it paid dividends for crews with light air guile as huge gains could be made by picking the pressure and shifts.

There was no better example than Race 3, where Harry Lawson piloted Eric’s Storage to commanding winning margin of 1 min 30 sec after posting a 34th placing in the earlier heat. The Middle Harbour team is known to be good in light airs, and for picking shifts, but few predicted such a dominant result in such a high-quality fleet.

“We knew we wanted the right-hand side, so we were intentionally late at the start – fifth row maybe,” Lawson explained. “We tacked out and just kept going right towards a cloud we could see.

“We stayed in pressure the whole work, and once we hit the front it was a lot easier.”

All the more remarkable, Eric’s Storage was still being screwed together 30 minutes before Race 2’s start, having destroyed its jib track and carbon mount in Race 1.

“The guys from Kammakazie burnt the midnight oil repairing the carbon section while Deck Hardware sourced a track from Sydney and had it delivered overnight,” Lawson added. “Our first race was a bit scrambled. We got ping-ponged by the fleet and learnt from that in the second race.”

First State Lending, helmed by Phil Bower with Shane McDonald and Richard Nardone, also cashed in with a stunning second place in the day’s opening race.

“It was a brilliant race. We started well and got among the leaders and found a few avenues to work our way to the lead,” Bower said. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t quite hold it to the finish.”

First State Lending has won a state heat at their co-home club of Illawarra, however it was their best nationals result to date. Race 3 saw them slip back to 37th, victims of the tide and light airs once back in the pack.

Felix Gretch aboard Koreman Marine Composites took Race 2 honours after clawing his way from third place at the first mark. The ever-consistent Bryden’s Lawyers claimed third place in the race, while Ben Bruniges’s Newcastle Financial Planning Group grabbed fourth.

Ryan Wilmot’s Growthbuilt led early but slipped to 11th, expiring on the second work. It later made amends by finishing the next race in third, with Sutech Musto securing second.

Sutech Musto skipper Daniel Turner said the second placing was critical in the regatta’s overall context, having earlier finished fifth.

“Any spot in the top five is gold because consistency is going to win this regatta,” he said. “We rounded the first mark in around 30th place but fought back. The split in the breeze was massive and we went right and made huge gains.”

Sutech Musto currently leads overall with a score of 8, narrowly followed by Bryden’s Lawyers.

A number of skiffs used the break between races to replace jibs and centreboards. The first race also had to be abandoned due to a wind shift, sending the fleet back for restart.

Having posted a DNF in the heavy-air Race 1, James Downey scored two firsts in the 13ft skiff titles aboard Bigfoot. He and Sam Skeen beat Nathan Lilley (Ebix) and Will Divola (Bruce) respectively.

Racing continues from 12.55pm tomorrow with two further heats.

Results at



Race 2




Race 3





13ft Skiffs

Race 2


EBIX Nathan Lilley


Race 3


BRUCE Will Divola

AWOL Harry Parker

Whipped cream rises in nationals opener

January 5, 2020Announcement

Although whipped by a southerly gusting to 25 knots, the cream nevertheless rose to the top during a challenging start to the 2020 Australian 16ft and 13ft Skiff Championships at Port Stephens NSW.

Most of the fleet selected their small rig as the breeze built, and all were glad they did as Race Officer Hugh Leicester nominated five laps of the choppy windward-leeward course in Salamander Bay. It then became a race of attrition as much as nutrition and stamina.

First to finish was Manly’s Sutech Musto Racing, helmed by Daniel Turner with Angus Williams and Matt Stenta, just 8 seconds ahead of St George skiff Brydens Lawyers.

“It was a hell of a lot windier than most were predicting, and there was a point where I said to the boys, ‘this is going to be a slow grind’,” Turner said after the race. “When we saw opportunities, we took a metre here and there. We made most of our gains in the top left corner because the wind really squirts out of there.”

Turner and his crew mean business this year, having gone close in previous attempts.

“I’ve been on the podium plenty of times – too many times,” he adds. “This year we’re out for the win, and anything less will hurt. We’ll happily take today’s result because when you look around at the top 10, you realise it won’t be easy.”

Peter Mackie, sheethand on Brydens Lawyers, was also happy with second place after an exhausting opening salvo.

“We were surprised to see the race time was around the 90-minute target mark – it seemed longer, and felt longer than that, but Hugh Leicester obviously did a good job,” Mackie said. “It was a great race though, which came right down to the death. We just got pipped by Sutech on the final run.

“Our key was just consistency – coming into these major regattas we know that we have to stay in and keep chipping away.”

Hard luck story of the day belonged to East Coast Marine and Sail, which led until the final mark despite Joel Castle’s trapeze harness breaking with two laps remaining. They finally slipped to fourth, behind Manly’s Growthbuilt (Ryan Wilmot).

“Joel held on with two hands going up the beats, but in the end we just didn’t have the swinging power we needed,” skipper Matt Rhys-Jones lamented. “It’s a shame because it was a good breeze and we were going well.”

Former Olympian Nathan Wilmot had a similar story on early favourite IMEA, as Trent Barnabas also suffered a harness malfunction on the second leg when the boat was running second.

“We’ve had better days,” Wilmot said. “We were right in contention, but it’s just one of those things. The boat was going great and we battled on … there’s lots of regatta to go.”

Belmont fielded five top-10 finishers in a strong showing for the club, with Will Howard, brother Richard and Jamie Woods taking a hard-earned 7th aboard Burger Bro’s.

“Most of the boats you’d expect to see in the top 10 all made their way there,” Will Howard noted. “The boat-handling at the top of the fleet was outstanding but it was notable that the leaders didn’t get too far in front of the fleet.

“I think we’re in for a close regatta.”

Ten of the 51 starters failed to finish.

With six 13ft skiffs also contesting their national title, opening honours went to Nathan Lilley on Ebix from clubmate Employment Hero helmed by Niall Powers – the final margin was 18 seconds. Lara Qigley on One2Three rounded out the top 3.

Race day sponsor was CST Marine. Races 2 and 3 will be held tomorrow, starting 1.55pm.

Results at


16ft Skiffs

  1. SUTECH MUSTO RACING Daniel Turner
  2. BRYDENS LAWYERS Lee Knapton
  3. GROWTHBUILT Ryan Wilmot
  4. EAST COAST MARINE and SAIL Matthew Rhys-Jones
  5. SKE ELECTRICAL Danny Anderson
  6. TOOHEYS EXTRA DRY Henry Makin
  7. BURGER BRO’S Will Howard
  10. IMEI Nathan Wilmot

13ft Skiffs

  1. EBIX Nathan Lilley
  2. EMPLOYMENT HERO Niall Powers
  3. ONE2THREE Lara Quigley
  4. BRUCE Will Divola

Nationals Competitor Information #1

December 26, 2019Announcement, News

Hi Sailors,

Not long now until the 2020 Championships up at Port Stephens. Some points of information for sailors and boat owners before this year’s regatta.

Race Documents

The NOR’s have been published, and you can view them on the Nationals website. The SI’s will be made available in the coming weeks.


All boats can register for the Nationals through raceHub. Whilst currently sail numbers are not required fields, these are expected to be confirmed 24 hours before the first race of the regatta.

If you are unable to select your race sails in your registration, please contact your club measurer so they can upload your sail registrations to raceHub.


As per the Notice of Race, the regatta will be held between the 4th-11th January, with the 4th being a Measurement / Registration Day. Note that the ASSA AGM will be held on this day at 1630hrs.


All boats will be required to book a time to measure their boat. To book and find out more details regarding how everything will be measured, click here.

Pre-Regatta Conference

The annual pre-regatta conference will be held at 1630hrs on Saturday the 4th. The agenda for this meeting has been sent out but can also be found here. If there is an item that you would like to be discussed, can you please fill in this form so that we can include it within our agenda and ensure the discussions can be effective. This will allow ASSA to gather documents together relevant to each topic to assist with a more meaningful discussion.

Presentation Night

Awards night is being held at the Nelson Bay Golf Club, with a shuttle running to assist sailors in getting to and from the venue. Tickets are $50 each and can be purchased here.

Look forward to seeing everyone up at Port Stephens. More information will be posted, and everyone notified as it becomes available.

Sign up to SMS notifications for the nationals.

Yes, please add my mobile number to your SMS mailing list

QLD underdogs barking over NSW favouritism

December 18, 2019Announcement, News

Talk of NSW entrants dominating the Australian 16ft Skiff Championships at Port Stephens from January 4 has a quietly confident Queensland contingent relishing the prospect of taking underdog status into the state-of-origin battle.

Fresh from winning the recent Queensland State Championships aboard Fire Stopping, the crew of Trevor Koreman, Frazer Smith and Daniel Jack believe they’ll feel right at home on the waters of Port Stephens, which has parallels with Darling Point Sailing Squadron’s race track on Moreton Bay.

It’s where a fresh nor’easter and tricky swells tested their crewing skills and boat speed in the final heat of the QLD States. They prevailed over the well-sailed Data 3 and RW Retail respectively, both of whom are also making the trip south for the nationals.

“We haven’t done a great deal of sailing lately but we’re definitely picking up our boat speed again,” said 21-year-old skipper Koreman. “We finished seventh last year at the Australian titles so we’re hoping to go as well, if not better, at Port Stephens if it blows above 15 knots.”

Thrills and spills are certainly predicted for Port Stephens if and when the seasonal nor’east seabreeze meets a run-out tide on Salamander Bay. That said, the NSW Championships were also no walk in the park.

The cream largely rose to the top, though, led by Nathan Wilmot on IMEI in a countback against Manly clubmate Sutech Musto Racing skippered by Daniel Turner. Brydens Lawyers, with Lee Knapton helming, filled the minor placing, holding out Belmont skiff Southern Beaches Rugby.

They, along with Koreman Marine Composites (Felix Grech) and Tooheys Extra Dry (Henry Makin) are tipped to be leading contenders for nationals.

Rod Carter, a school teacher and sailmaker who steers Southern Beaches Rugby (SBR), is eyeing another top-5 finish after a consistent performance in the States held at both Belmont and Drummoyne.

“We were one of just two crews who only had top-10 finishes,” Carter said. “I’ve got Adam Gilson on sheet, who’s been with me for a number of years, and we’ve added Andrew Stone to the bow – he has provided the X-factor.”

While SBR is a 15-year-old Munster design that Carter has campaigned for eight seasons, it remains cutting-edge in terms of rig evolution.

“We’ve designed all our own rigs and they’re a bit different from the conventional set-up,” Carter adds. “We’re the only boat running a forward-facing prodder and were one of the first boats to go with a square-topped jib.”

“There are times when we feel like we’re the fastest boat on the water, and I reckon Port Stephens will suit our crew work and hull shape. It’s a bit finer in the bow, which might give us an edge over the newer Chinese-built, ASSA-supplied black boats.”

Asked to name his main rivals, Carter lists IMEI, Sutech and Brydens but admits the Queenslanders could be dark horses.

“They don’t have the fleet size to get the quality of racing week-to-week, but Fire Stopping and RW Retail are the form boats. They’ll be quick, given the right conditions, and more than capable of getting a few good results.

“Also, our sheethand is the Vice-President of the Association and the President is a Queenslander, so it will be good to get one up on them. But it’s all good rivalry, mateship and competition at the end of the day.”

To celebrate the class’s proud history of comradery, an “old boys” day will be held on Friday, 10 January, where ex-skiffies can watch the afternoon racing, pick every shift from the balcony, reminisce and tell the new breed how they could improve.

Young guns will also be out in force as the national titles also includes the 13ft skiff class, a feeder for the 16ft skiff fleet. A step up from the 29er, the boat is truly a youth’s weapon capable of up to 20 knots downwind and sometimes even matching the 16ft skiff.

The Australian 16ft Skiff Association is expecting a fleet of fifty 16ft Skiffs and fifteen 13ft Skiffs to compete from 4-11 January 2020. Port Stephens Sailing and Aquatic Club will host nine races with two drops, up from a 7-race series with one drop as in previous years.

Sponsorship packages are available at, while the Notice of Race and online entry forms can be found at or by emailing ua.gr1637967427o.sff1637967427iks@y1637967427rater1637967427ces1637967427.

Southern Beaches Rugby. Photo: Michael Chittenden