North Sails LOFT NEWS

Story Contributors: Matt Steven

HONDA MARINE HANGS ONTO THE 18FT SKIFF WORLD TITLE

Third Time’s a Charm

📸 Michael Chittenden

After nine exhilarating races on Sydney Harbour, Honda Marine took the prestigious JJ Giltinan 18ft Skiff Championship title for the third year running. An equivalent regatta to a World Championship, the crew combination of Matt Steven from North Sails New Zealand (middle-crew), Brad Collins (bowman) and David McDiarmid (helmsman) proved unbeatable yet again.

The trend was set in 2018 when Honda Marine became the first New Zealanders in 45 years to win the JJs with the same crew as today. Asked how it felt to maintain this record, One Design expert Matt Steven replies, “It is very special; 18ft Skiff racing has a huge following and a rich history in New Zealand. Many older sailors have sailed them in the past and the Trans-Tasman rivalry makes it one of the most followed events in New Zealand.’’

Steven is no stranger to sailing on Sydney Harbour. “It is a testing venue with an enormous amount of challenges and obstacles, including wind, headlands islands and most importantly, the traffic.’’

Sailing with a full 3Di inventory, the team has used their mainsails for three years and jibs for two years: “The fact that our mainsails have lasted every race and training session for three years is a massive statement in itself. We ran two new jibs this year with the Helix luff structure in them; with the stiffness of 3Di and the amount of control we have over our jibs now, it’s quite amazing how much you can alter the shape with very little adjustment.’’

Asked which conditions the 3Di sails excelled in, Matt says “They perform well across the whole range. As the breeze gets up they have more responsiveness which allows us to change gears better than the competitors.’’

“The fact that our mainsails have lasted every race and training session for three years is a massive statement in itself. They perform well across the whole range. As the breeze gets up they have more responsiveness which allows us to change gears better than the competitors.’’

The Honda Marine crew sailed a strong regatta, discarding a fourth place in race 7. Speaking for the team, Matt says “We were very lucky on that day. We made the wrong rig choice and with two rigs moded for 0-12 and 12-25 knots respectively, the decision can be critical if you get caught out of range which happened to us in race 7. We pulled a few good maneuvers out of the bag and maintained our fast downwind speed to finish with a fourth. The next day, we prioritized the rig choice decision and got it right to match the conditions.’’

With clients on Winning Group finishing just four points behind Honda Marine, we asked Matt what their tactics were going into the final day. “Our game plan was to sail how we had sailed every other day,” said Matt “The goal was to beat Winning Group in the first race of the day which we managed to do. They were getting quicker every race and we knew they would come for us – having won four JJ titles together as a combination, they were our serious rivals throughout the entire event.’’

Having sailed as a combination for five years, about 70% of their preparation goes into boat handling to control such high-powered skiffs in a busy fleet. “The gains and losses in boats like these are huge when it comes to turning corners,” Matt explains. “We know each other well which is key to pulling off maneuvers in pressure situations.’’

So what is next having won the JJs for three years in a row? “We are all on the same page that we would love to do another one as we have some ideas on improvements we can make to the boat. We are still enjoying sailing together, so why not?!’’

📸 Michael Chittenden
📸 Michael Chittenden
📸 Michael Chittenden

Story Contributors

Honda Marine Hangs Onto the 18ft Skiff World Title headshot
Matt Steven

One Design Expert, Sail Expert — Auckland, New Zealand – Sales Office Auckland, New Zealand – Sail Loft

Matt was introduced to sailing whilst cruising on his family's Young 88 in Wellington and the Marlborough Sounds. He progressed through the New Zealand junior classes before finding his competitive feet in the Laser class and being selected for the...