Craig Nicholls has been part of the Manly 16ft Skiff Club fleet for 31 straight years.
So when the Typhoon skipper tells you winning a heat of the Manly club championship is just as hard as winning at state or national level, it’s worth taking notice.
Ahead of the first heat of the 2018/19 club championship on Saturday, Nicholls easily rattles off five or six boats that are genuine contenders.
And just below that list, there’s another half dozen boats capable of challenging.
“You obviously get a few more boats from other clubs at the states and nationals, but the intensity is no different to a heat at Manly,” Nicholls said.
“I’d say it’s just as hard winning here as it is at the other levels. It’s just the same.
“The fleet strength this year is just as good as last year, if not stronger.
“Everyone’s a year wiser.”
For the record, Nicholls believes the main contenders for the club championship will emerge from Manly Surf n Slide (David O’Connor), Koreman Marine Composites (Felix Grech), Sutech (Daniel Turner) and Fluid Building (Kirk Mitchell).
He also doesn’t discount the chances of Botany Access (Chris Thomas), Southerly (Matt Triglone) and Lancelin Ropes (Sarah Lee).
And the Typhoon skipper hopes he can combine with experienced crew members Rolf Cohen and Mitch White to cause a few upsets along the way.
“It’s all in the start. If you get a good start and get around that top mark, you can pretty much hold your lane because most boats go the same pace,” Nicholls explained.
“But if you get a bad start you can quite easily come 18th.
“Everyone is brushing up on their starting procedures. It’s critical. It’s 70 per cent of your race.”
“We’re aiming for a top 10 spot…any place above 10 is a bonus.”
Strong wind and wave conditions forced the postponement of racing on the long weekend, ensuring the Manly fleet is fresh and raring to go for the opening heat of the club championship.