The challenge for the Australian Open Skiff Trust is to forge ahead to meet the goals of establishing sufficient equipment, infrastructure and support to enable sustainable historic sailing at the Sydney Flying Squadron.
With the current ten-boat race fleet, there is now the momentum and a powerful presence on Sydney Harbour, and positive feedback has been received that the race fleet is now a harbour feature, a spectacle in its own right.
A similar response has been received from the media, fans and supporters wherever our fleet has raced — the Brisbane River, Perth River and Port Macquarie. As well as promoting the sport, these interstate races have showcased the potential for other clubs to be involved with the Australian Open Skiff Trust to raise funds to build replicas of their own famous 18-foot skiffs, which will enable more historic championships to be held and lead to further interest in, and development of, the sport.
So the challenge for the Australian Open Skiff Trust and the Sydney Flying Squadron skiff sailors is to continue to build on the growing support base by involving and helping other historic 18-foot skiff clubs to come on board, build their replicas and develop race crew skills for parochial competitions into the future.
Importantly, it is not solely about the boats. They are merely the tools to bring together all types of people who are compelled and excited by the opportunity of racing historic wooden gaff-rigged 18-foot skiffs.
The current race crews comprise both men and women, experienced ‘skiffies’ and beginners, from teens to the twin Notley brothers, who have raced skiffs continuously for 63 years, all mixed together over the 26 Saturdays of the Sydney Flying Squadron summer season.
The most rewarding outcome of this project, apart from the exciting spectacle of the skiffs racing on the harbour, is to witness the human connection that building, maintaining and racing these historic skiffs provides. Old friendships are rekindled, new ones forged and, more importantly, they provide a great opportunity for senior sailors to mentor the young. This is a perfect example of something that is difficult to find these days — young and old finding mutual sporting challenges and enjoyment together.
Parallel to the on-water achievements, the Australian Open Skiff Trust’s historian, John ‘Steamer’ Stanley, continues to research, align and present the lost history of the sport from private handed-down collections of journals, trophies, championship pennants and old newspaper clippings. This provides a great sense of achievement and tangible joint ownership of the sport by both old and new sailors.
The Australian Open Skiff Trust project is on target to reach its goals and there is confidence that when the history is completed, available and accessible at the Sydney Flying Squadron, new generations of caretakers will step up and protect this valuable link to Australia’s sailing past, keeping the special sailing skills alive and relevant to future generations.