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Today there are two modern hull designs racing. The "International 18" is based on a design by Iain Murray, while the B18 was designed by Julian Bethwaite. The Australian 18 Footer League allows only the International 18, with the annual JJ Giltinan International Trophy contended with the one design Murray hull. The European and UK Class Association allows both designs to compete against each other.

Although there are differences in the sailing aspects of the two designs, their measurements are very close, with a waterline length of 18 ft (5.49 m) and an average beam of 6 to 8 feet (1.83 to 2.44 m), not including the wings. With wings the maximum beam is 14 feet for the "International 18" and 18 feet for Open 18's sailed at Sydney Flying Squadron. When the boat is dry it should weigh not less than 375 lb (170 kg) including wings, foils (centreboard and rudder) and the number one rig of sails, spars and ropes.

In the 1980s and 90's wings were widened to the extreme - some boats having maximum beam of 29 feet. Such wings proved unmanageable, with the crews too much on the brink of disaster for consistent success.

denmark slide 2While true 18' skiffs have no sail area or mast height limitations, the limit that the 18 footer League has specified for their one-design sub class is a maximum mast height of 33 ft (10 m), truly powerful on an 18' hull. The entire rig, which supports sails with unlimited area, is currently controlled by three trapezing crew members.

The boat will plane upwind starting at a true windspeed of about 8 knots, depending on sea conditions and off the wind can reach speeds that doubles the true windspeed. This is possible through the very high sail-carrying power to total weight ratio, which is above 30% with the no. 1 rig and approaches 40% with the no. 3 rig (for reference, a 30% ratio is needed to plane upwind and a 10% ratio is needed to plane at all. Most cruising boats have a ratio under 5%).

In Australia, there is a fleet of approximately 20-25 18 Foot Skiffs at the "League" club in Sydney. Sydney's other traditional 18 Foot Skiff club, the Sydney Flying Squadron, has a small fleet and there are several boats in the state of Queensland. In New Zealand the class flowing is smaller but reached its zenith in the 1970s when most designs were by Bruce Farr.

The 18 ft skiff is not without its dangers. The high speed makes it hard to handle and requires extremely fast reflexes and a broad awareness of your surroundings in order to anticipate changes. Major accidents can occur with inexperienced and experienced sailors alike.

The 18 ft skiff is currently one of the fastest monohulls on the water. With its massive sail-plan of over 100 square metres on the no. 1 rig and three crew members on trapeze it can outperform nearly every monohull on the water. It combines extreme speeds with an element of danger and is thought by many to be one of the biggest spectacles in sailing.

 

 

 

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