The James J Giltinan (JJ Giltinan) Trophy is the World’s Championship for 18ft skiffs. In skiffie language, it’s just called “the JJs”.
Traditionally the open boats known as skiffs were actually utility boats that had a purpose, but were also often raced “out of hours” so to speak. They came in many varied lengths from 16ft to 24ft, and were raced over long courses (around 12 miles) and with a complicated handicap system that mean the winner wasn’t determined for a long time afterwards. It was Mark Foy that first came up with a plan to make his beloved sport of sailing more appealing – make the racing exciting and fast, add colourful logos to the sails, and a “first past the post” race handicap system. Even now, that sounds like a plan! The year was 1892.
So for a number of years, things were going swimmingly. The Sydney Flying Squadron was the home for all 18ft skiff sailing, and they conducted regular racing using Foy’s “staggered start” handicap system. The boats were typically 8ft beam with a “heel” aft, very traditional looking for the time. Eventually in 1912-13 the first Australian Championship was held. However by the early 1930s, the expense of these big boats was taking its toll, and fewer new boats were built. Suddenly, a departure – The Scot, a 7ft beam boat, ignored by the establishment as a “fad”. But Fred Hart in Queensland saw the opportunity and built the radical, heel-less skiff Aberare, the legendary “Galloping Ghost”, which carried roughly half the crew of the existing skiffs. After winning 23 races from 31 starts, including 4 consecutive Australian titles, the establishment decided to ban the skiff and “protect” the 8ft beam big boats.
James J Giltinan
James Joseph Giltinan, another entrepeneurial Sydney businessman, created a new 18ft skiff club following the banning Aberdare. Giltinan was no stranger to creating “rebel” competitions, after creating the breakaway “rugby league” competition from the established rugby union. He promptly declared a regatta for the ‘James J. Giltinan Trophy for the World Championship’ was created and the initial regatta staged on Sydney Harbour in January 1938, coinciding with Sydney’s 150th anniversary. This ornate trophy is raced for by sailors from around the world each year in Sydney, hosted by the Australian 18 Footers League at Double Bay.