Australian 18ft League president and legendary 18ft skiff champion John “Woody” Winning is celebrating his 70th birthday this week, but you’d never know if the dynamic “Woody” is heading towards his 38th season prepared with 18-foot races in Sydney Harbour, in the “Famous”. Yandoo skiff with the 7th Field Artillery Brigade’s red and blue oval color patch.
JJ Giltinan World Champion and winner of International and Australian Championships, John has also been President of the Australian 18 Footers League for the past 18 years and has been responsible for the stability and success of the sport over the past two decades.
‘Woody’ has not only been the major influence on 18ft skiff racing on Sydney Harbor for the last 20 years or more, he is an active competitor in both the modern and historic 18ths every weekend during the summer months -foot fleets.
‘Woody’ joined the 18 footer ranks in a TraveLodge sponsored skiff in 1975-76 after winning the 1971-72 Australian 12 foot skiff championship with Yandoo and the 1974-75 Inter-Dominion 12 foot Skiff Championship for the TraveLodge company.
In the 18s he won the JJ Giltinan World Championship in 2000 when he led AMP Centrepoint to victory with teammates Euan McNicol and Anthony (Jack) Young and won the Australian Championship as well as International 18ft Skiff Championships in Europe , the USA and New Zealand.
John’s record could have been even greater as he was also runner-up to legendary 18ft champion Iain Murray in two JJ Giltinan World Championships and three Australian 18ft Championships had he not strayed a few years from 18’s to focus on family business commitments.
John’s international 18ft championship record includes three European Championships (2001, 2004 and 2011), a Mark Foy Trophy win with Yandoo at Sonderborg, Denmark in 2011, the San Francisco International Championship in 2004 and the ANZAC Regatta in Auckland in 2010
In 1999, John was also instrumental in building the “Historical 18s” fleet. Class historian John “Steamer” Stanley, who has known John for many years, recalls:
“John and I went sailing on a replica Aberdare with Robert Tearne who built the boat and we were both addicted to the challenge of sailing a boat like this. Woody had Robert build a replica of Australia I, the 1946-47 Australian Champion, which also included John’s father and uncle Dick Winning in the Champion crew. This was the beginning of a rebuilding program to preserve and recreate the rich history of 18-Footer.”
As usual he was willing to back his beliefs with his own money and still owns or is involved in 5 or 6 boats in the current historical fleet.
Added John Stanley: “Woody gives far more back to the sport than he gets from it. He is extremely generous with his time and money and is always willing to help other sailors or anyone who needs it.”
Mark Foy established an action-packed sport and promoted it to the general public who had previously had little sailing knowledge, while James J. Giltinan was the sports promoter responsible for initiating a world championship for the 18’s.
“Woody” has now consolidated the work of these men, ensuring the continuation of the course through sponsorship from his family business and corporate partner, while promoting the race with live video coverage to the world.
John initially served as President of the Australian 18 Footers League from 1984 to 1985 but was forced to relinquish the position as this was the time when he became more involved in running the family business. When Mr. Eric Bowen, who took over from John’s presidency in 1985, retired in 2003, John resumed his role with the League and still holds that position today.
The League’s fleet thrived under John’s presidency in the 2000s, and it is his personal and family initiatives and financial support that have been such a significant part of its success.
John and his wife Kerrie, along with the late Bob Killick, were the original trio to create video coverage of the league’s races and the family business has been a major funder of every JJ Giltinan Championship since 2007.
The continued success of Australia’s legendary 130-year-old sport of 18ft skiff racing on Sydney Harbor is in large part due to the incredible actions and support of John ‘Woody’ Winning, the Winning family and the Winning family business Thanks to.
Happy 70th birthday John from everyone involved with the 18s and thank you for all you have done and continue to do for the sport.