Howard Hamlin, Mike Martin and Trevor Baylis - the crew of General Electric-US Challenge – have become the first American crew ever to win the JJ Giltinan 18 foot Skiff International Championship

Howard Hamlin, Mike Martin and Trevor Baylis on General Electric-US Challenge sailed an excellent final heat on Sydney Harbour on Sunday afternoon to become the first American winners of the JJ Giltinan 18 foot Skiff International Championship, and only the second winners from the northern hemisphere since the trophy was first awarded in 1938.

Coming into the final heat, General Electric-US Challenge was, along with John Harris’s Rag & Famish Hotel and Daniel Phillips’s Derwent Racing, one of three boats in serious contention for the championship. In fact, the American team had the hardest job of the three, as their points score was such that they would need to have two boats between themselves and their rivals if they were to succeed.

The race was sailed in a south easterly breeze of 12-15 knots, with a huge spectator fleet gathered in Taylor Bay for the start, including two of the traditional ferries packed with sailing enthusiasts.

Britain’s Rob Greenhalgh, helming RMW Marine with crew Dan Johnson and Jonny Meers, got away perfectly once again, as he has for most of the week, at the favoured committee boat end of the line, and held a good lead at the Rose Bay rounding mark after the long beat to windward. Second place at that stage was held by Victor Brellisford on White Stuff, with Derwent Racing and General Electric-US Challenge in fairly close attendance, but Rag & Famish Hotel rounded in 14th position.

General Electric-US Challenge and Derwent Racing battled head to head for second place, before the American team established superiority, but they also dropped a place to Hugh Stodart on Express Post, who then held second position right to the end of the race.

With Derwent Racing falling back a little, The Rag recovered sufficiently to become a real threat to General Electric-US Challenge, but the Americans’ cause was helped by the fact that Michael Coxon on Sunday Telegraph and Tony Hannan on Bell Partners were also charging up through the fleet and staying ahead of The Rag.

RMW Marine crossed the line over a minute and a half ahead of Express Post, but there was tension in the air as the next four boats approached the line with the championship still at stake. For one moment, it looked as though Bell Partners was going to take third position from General Electric-US Challenge, but the American team just managed to retain the place by one second, and all eyes were then focused on Rag & Famish Hotel to see whether she could finish ahead of Sunday Telegraph, which she failed to do by a mere three seconds.

The very popular American team had managed to do what was needed for them to win this coveted championship, by finishing that one vital second ahead of Bell Partners. Racing is never more exciting than this.

Of the two British entries, Rob Greenhalgh will be feeling most bittersweet. Tim Robinson’s Great Britain had been in the top ten throughout the championship but failed to really hit the heights.

Greenhalgh began the week ablaze, finishing over a minute ahead of the fleet in the first race, only to find himself protested out. His response was to in the second race but RMW Marine them picked up a 21st place in the third race and retired from the fifth with a broken jib track. With their DSQ in the first race, they knew their regatta was over but they can take some solace from an eye-catching performance.

JJ Giltinan 18 foot Skiff International Championship 2002
Final standings – 7 Heats, 1 discard:1. General Electric-US Challenge 33.7 points2. Rag & Famish Hotel 35.7 points3. Derwent Racing 39.4 points4. Newport Arms Hotel 48.4 points5. Express Post 59.1 points6. Sunday Telegraph 70 points7. Great Britain 77.9 points8. RMW Marine 80 points9. Omega Smeg 80.4 points10. d’Albora Marinas 86 points