Meet the judges at Australia's Greatest Boats
It takes some talented people to get through the Australia's Greatest Trailers Boats mega review. Say hello to the judging panel who test and rate the best fishing boats in Australia.
What are the requisite qualifications for being an Australia’s Greatest Boats judge? Well it helps if you can squeeze into the fishing shirts and jackets that we bought at a recent garage sale for a start. Owning a boat licence is handy as is several thousand hours’ worth of sunburn and chapped lips so you look the part. Then there’s the ability to hold onto your breakfast as maniacal boat manufacturers flick their rigs about like they’re jitterbugging in a minefield. An Australia’s Greatest Boats judge also has to be able to count… at least to ten. Anything above that is left to Excel to sort out at the end of the day. Oh, it also helps if you can string a few words together.
Meet the judges for Australia's Greatest Boats 2017
An absolute recreational fishing devotee, Jo Starling is never far from the water. Having grown up on the ever-demanding waterways of the Top End, her move to the southern New South Wales village of Tuross Head in 2012 has seen her burst into the mainstream fishing arena.
Jo started waterskiing at the age of eight, but she withdrew from that pursuit some years after her family moved to Darwin, where a few croc sightings whilst skiing made her feel like a trolled lure. Her water-lust turned to diving in her early twenties and she quickly became a PADI dive master, guiding on the WWII wrecks of Darwin Harbour. She credits a lot of her fishing success to her understanding of fish behaviour, developed during those years.
John Ford hails from the coastal hamlet of Merimbula on the south coast of NSW. A charming fellow with a mellow disposition, Mr Ford is equally at home finessing a 50ft luxury cruiser as he is trundling along in a 12ft duck punt. Quietly spoken, bespectacled and sporting a shock of silver hair, the bearded one comes across all quiet and demure until he eases behind the wheel of a boat and his true nature is unleashed. John turns into a maniac and will expend his last breath discovering the limits of whatever boat crosses his path.
Tim Van Duyl
Trade-a-Boat editor Tim dusts off his Stormy jacket to step up and play judge. Perhaps the man with the most to lose, he will be out to prove that desk smarts can cut it on the water.
Closing in on Australia's Greatest Boats veteran status himself, Tim’s been to a few of these events but this is his first time judging. Maybe it’s the allure of a future call-up to Neighbours, or maybe he was just sick of running around, telling people where to go and what to do, but he has a foolish idea that judging will be easier than organising.
Only time and a number of video re-shoots will tell whether he can cut it.
Originally from Durban on the east coast of South Africa, captain Kev might talk like a bad Tony Greig impersonator, but he knows bugger all about cricket. A former dive charter operator who boasts Jacques Cousteau’s team amongst his exclusive list of clients, Kevin honed his boating skills on some of the most inhospitable waters on the planet but now prefers spending his time floating on the surface rather than below it. He also contributed to several fishing and boating mags in South Africa, but since they were in Afrikaans, we have no idea if they were any good. An enthusiastic angler who now calls Brisbane home, Kevin is our go-to-guy in the Sunshine State and knows how to make a boat dance to his beat.
Steve 'Starlo' Starling
Joining us as an independent guest judge is Trade-a-Boat columnist, Steve Starling. Better known to his legion of fishing-mad fans simply as ‘Starlo’, Steve has fished across the globe and around the country for half a century, chasing everything that swims, from mullet to marlin. Today, Starlo is one of Australia’s most respected and popular angling communicators, with more than 20 how-to books and thousands of feature articles and columns under his belt. He won’t shy from the camera, either – there are countless TV shows, videos, DVDs and YouTube clips.
Starlo brings his immense fishing expertise to the team, and stresses that he regards boats purely as a means to an end: a vehicle designed to transport anglers to the fish, and bring them home safely. Unimpressed by bells, whistles and fancy cosmetics, Steve will be basing his judging decisions solely on the practicalities of each vessel for the primary task at hand ... fishing!
Special host: John 'Bear' Willis
John has been a judge at every Australia's Greatest Boats. Instead of being a judge for the 2015 event, he took on the important role of hosting the multi-day event.
The elder statesman of our boat testing crew is John Willis aka "Bear". Named for dispensing hugs at the drop of a hat, he is a force of nature. If it rolls, floats or farts, John will inevitably put up his hand to test it. When not winging it around the country reviewing boats, camper trailers or motorcycles, he can be found in his natural environment courting Katrina Louise —his aged, but willing charter boat. An environmental activist and a political animal, John uses what little spare time we allot him to champion the causes of fishermen and boaties, standing up for the little guy and making sure the pollies don’t lose sight.
Past Australia's Greatest Boats judges
If you listen carefully, you might hear Chris about an hour out from Eden on his hog. Chris is not only in charge of the wonderful Club Marine magazine, but also a true petrolhead and performance nut.
A motorcycle magazine publisher in a former life, he has spent the past decade at the helm of Club Marine magazine, during which time he has tested numerous boats, judged the AMIF’s Australian Boat of the Year, and regularly crosses the Tasman to judge the Hutchwilco ‘Boat of the Show’ awards.
This Kiwi-born boatie has been in and around anything that floats since he was a tacker. His other claim to fame is ‘comprehensively’ defeating John Willis in a radio debate on Bear’s own show a few years ago – although there might be two versions of that story
If you’ve recently been drawn to a picture here, it was probably Jack’s. Or maybe you’re follow his exploits during the Trade-a-boat Jack’s Lap extravaganza. Regardless of how you know Jack, his easygoing personality and charm hide a passion for fishing and boating that have led to a natural fit with us. Jack has reviewed a number of boats through the last year and has been to Australia’s Greatest Boats before as a dedicated photographer and deckie. We thought this year was a good chance to test his mettle under the pressure of 10 proud manufacturers and their product but just because he is young, doesn’t mean you can bully the kid. He knows his stuff and knows it well
You know the name and you know what that means: passion, perfection and persistence. Peter Pakula is world renowned for his gamefishing expertise and history catching some of the most enviable fish ever reeled in. Peter has owned a number of trailerboats and has spent more hours on the water than a lot of us combined. His business is about developing the perfect lure, and with repetition and innovation drives his success as a businessman. Expect Peter to quiz rodholder layout, fit and finish, overall usability and a good yarn if you are up for it.
David represents real authority with a role encompassing on-water compliance, enforcement and training as a Marine Officer for Gippsland Ports. Also carrying a coxswain’s licence, we expect a few boat representatives to squirm under the weight of his authority. But fear not, David is an avid diver and fisherman, even going so far as spending a couple of years as an instructor in Torres Strait. No doubt he has some shark-fending skills with a past like that but his humble beginnings from beach-launching a tinnie as a kid, will endear him well to the Australia’s Greatest Boats fraternity.
When he’s not reviewing boats in New Zealand, Matt Jones is a numbers man. No, seriously — he’s an accountant when not masquerading as a boat reviewer, so boat manufacturers better make sure their figures stack up. Australia’s Greatest Boats was a bit of a shock to the system for our young Kiwi as several boat brands he’d never laid eyes on all vied for his attention. Early mornings, helicopters and high speed formations combined to leave an impression and we don’t think he’s come down from the high yet.
Jeff is the highly regarded former editor of Trade-A-Boat. Personable, capable, extremely well informed and fun to muck around with, Jeff quickly earned respect for his extensive marine knowledge and experience. As a former commercial fisherman there isn’t much Jeff doesn’t know about handling boats in rough conditions. Indeed, the camera crew loved his ability to put a boat right where they needed it. Most involved in this exercise thought Jeff’s score sheet opinions make valuable reading.
Angelo San Giorgio
At the time of the shootout, Angelo was the editor of TrailerBoat magazine and the leader – or so we told him – of our motley crew. Cherry picking all the good jobs, he get to spend a fair chunk of his time hanging around airport terminals on his way to yet another boat test or industry junket, sorry, we mean fact-finding mission. When not on the water smiling profusely while attempting to con everyone into thinking he actually knows what he’s doing, you would have found Angelo in the office around deadline time with a glazed look in his bung eye. Angelo gives anything that floats a go and he’s designed, tested and broken several rigs in his time — all in the name of a good story. He is also in awe of the team as he rates each member at the top of their game.
Rick has fished and boated in much of Australia’s offshore, coastal estuarine and inland waters. Holding a commercial skippers ticket Australia-wide, he ran fishing charters throughout the Northern Territory for a decade, much of that via trailerboat to remote areas such as Arnhem Land and other Aboriginal coastal communities. He's also been writing and photographing for various fishing and boating publications for the past 20 years. Rick’s knowledge of boats is considerable.
A somewhat self-effacing fellow, Mr Steptoe is nonetheless a veteran of the marine and publishing industries and has been writing about boats and fishing since the 1980s. Apart from his obvious love of with boats, he is active in fishery management and conservation and is a tireless lobbyist in the interests of fishermen everywhere. Rear Admiral Steptoe has a commercial arrangement with one boat manufacturer (in 2010). However, he assures us, that arrangement had no bearing on the way he scored these boats.
David Lockwood is at home driving power and sailboats, striking out in a kayak, launching a tinnie or trailerboat, roaming about the wide blue yonder, or ensconced up the creek with the family and flick stick. He goes boating for work and pleasure, and his expert boat tests and feature stories were keenly read by both prospective buyers and boat builders.
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