Dramatic reactions at the start of the 18 Footer Worlds

18 foot single sculls: Dramatic reactions at the start of the 18 foot Worlds

by Frank Quealey Feb 24 7:37 PM PST

Two Australian skippers from the early years of the 18ft World Championships (aka JJ Giltinan Championship) were unimpressed with actions they said deserved very strong reactions. The first, in 1939, involved defending champion Bert Swinbourne and his skiff Taree. The second, twenty-five years later in 1963, was Ken Beashel and his skiff Schemer.

In 1939 Swinbourne led a three-boat Australian team to contest the World Championship in Auckland against a large group of Class M and Class V boats.

After a last-minute charge for the lead in the opening race of the three-race regatta, New Zealander Manu took the lead to beat another New Zealand boat, Jeanette, by just 8s.

Australian St George and New Zealander Jeanette then led for most of race two before Jeanette took the lead at the last mark and took the win ahead of St George and Taree. Winner of the first race, Manu finished four minutes behind in seventh place.

At the end of the race, a protest lodged against Jeanette, for an infringement of the first buoy, saw the boat disqualified. It was the first of many protests that would end up spoiling the championship for many years to come.

The final race attracted huge spectator support for the local teams, but it was 1938 champion Taree who took the lead from the start and crossed the finish line almost two minutes ahead of Jeanette and Manu.

It emerged Taree skipper Bert Swinbourne had won his second title but a late protest by a New Zealand skipper for a pre-start infringement by Taree was upheld and the championship was awarded to Gordon Chamberlin’s Manu .

When the protest was upheld and Taree was disqualified, the recalculated points gave the championship to Chamberlin and Manu while Swinbourne was relegated to fourth.

Swinbourne appealed the decision but there was no time to hear his appeal, so Swinbourne and the Australian team, along with the trophy, returned to Sydney.

Five months after the regatta, the League received a letter from the Australian Board of Control advising that Auckland’s decision had been upheld and Manu was confirmed as the winner. The League then agreed to send the trophy to New Zealand for presentation.

Swinbourne refused to accept the result, as his appeal was with the New Zealand authorities and would not hand over the trophy “until properly won” and remained in his possession for several years.

Finally, in 1945, Swinbourne returned the trophy to the League and explained that Taree’s owner Bill Scahill had told him to hang on to the trophy if his appeal went unheeded, and “that’s exactly what that I did”.

He claimed: “There was no glamor in holding it. It went straight into the pantry (under the kitchen sink) without the New Zealand wrappers even being removed.” The League accepted Swinbourne’s apology and sent the trophy to Auckland for official presentation to Gordon Chamberlin.

In 1963, unlike the protracted incident of 1939, it involved instant retribution from Ken Beashel on the high seas.

An RNZAF (Royal New Zealand Air Force) launch, carrying a television cameraman, collided with Beashel’s skiff Schemer during the 1963 World Championship Regatta in Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour.

Ken Beashel, later recalled: “We were sailing towards the finish with a reasonable lead when we had to turn. This boat, which was actually a small ship, came in smoking, taking pictures of us, so I yelled at him to stop but the next thing he was on board us.

According to a local yachting magazine at the time: “When the Schemer crew were sure that their intentions had to be made clear at launch, and the launch could easily be aborted in time, Beashel set about laying the mark The Schemer crew was just settling on the new tack when the launch struck them on the port side amidships.”

Beashel managed to board the launch to demand some retribution from the helmsman, as any self-respecting 18ft skipper would do. As the two boats pulled away, Ken only had time for a short but effective visit before jumping into the tide to rejoin his boat and crew.

“I managed to climb on the bow and I got on board and I told him what I thought of him with my hands (I grabbed him and I hit him) then I jumped to water to check my damaged boat.”

“It created an international incident but the Australian Government Foreign Secretary told me not to apologise.”

There was a happy ending for Ken Beashel and his Schemer team. They won the 1963 world championship with three wins and a second place out of five races, but the record would have been even bigger.

The 2022 JJ Giltinan Championship will take place in Sydney Harbor from March 5-13.

The dates of the races are:

  • March 5 Race 1, George Calligeros Trophy
  • March 6 Race 2, Cliff Monkhouse Memorial Trophy
  • March 8 Race 3, Alan Cole Memorial Trophy
  • March 9 Races 4 & 5, AJ Reynolds Trophy
  • March 10 Races 6 and 7, Bill Miller Memorial Trophy
  • March 12 Race 8, Big Kite Memorial Trophy
  • March 13 Race 9

Spectators can follow the races on board the spectator ferry. Book online on the club’s website www.18footers.com is essential.


For those unable to make it on the water, Sail Media’s live broadcast team will be on Sydney Harbor to capture all the action.

The live stream is available on www.18footers.com by clicking on the ’18 Footers TV’ link.

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