Old match racers don't just fade away, they go Historic 18ft Skiff sailing


Six hours bobbing about off Valencia with little or no racing can test the most patient America’s Cup observer but aboard the press boat covering the south course this week there was plenty of banter, a considerable amount of it flowing from one Harry Cudmore, veteran match racer from a very different generation of Cup sailors.

“Shall I show you some pictures of what I’m up to now?” proffered Harry. Out came some snaps of The Mistake which transpired to be an historic 18ft skiff which he sails with a bunch of guys in Sydney Harbour. The Mistake which has 2 plus 2=5 emblazoned across it’s main is a new boat, a wooden replica of a vessel which bore the same name way back in the last century. There are about ten of them which race under the auspices of the Sydney Flying Squadron and Harry tells me they want to bring the fleet to the UK for a bit of fun.

Cudmore, whose name is spelt Cudmoore on his sailing shirt just to keep the theme going, says that the fleet regularly race in the harbour and in almost any conditions (which is more than can be said for a modern America’s Cup yacht). “We raced when the breeze was gusting 38 and all went well until we tried a gybe?” said Harry who listed some of the dinghy’s alarming vital statistics.

Although the squat little vessels are indeed 18ft on deck, their loa is a staggering 45ft with a 24ft main boom and a 14ft bowsprit. They set their spinnakers off the end of the gaff, a spar which is equipped with its own backstays! “To gybe them you have to remove the forestay and jib,” said Harry who appears to spend most of the winter in Australia campaigning The Mistake.

As we drifted around the course off Valencia, the sky overcast, the wind fitful at best and the race officers tearing their hair out with frustration, the pictures of the skiffs blasting across Sydney Harbour before steady breeze and under blue skies at least did something to cheer up our day.