Time please Ladies and gentlemen. It’s a wrap. Get out. Never quite the latter, no matter how hard we tried, but the 2018 SB20 World Championship of Hobart in Tasmania are now confined to the annals of history writes Ted Laverty. The final leader board contains all you need to know in numbers, but it will never accurately record the highs achieved by the 3 Irish crews who travelled here for this 12 race series against the world’s best.
Day 5 in the Derwent River continued to pose new questions for the near 60 boat fleet out in the water, with yet another new wind direction from the NE bringing boats out to a corner of the estuary not sailed before. With this came some optimism that the breeze would finally steady out - clearly we have learnt little as erratic oscillations filtered down through the hills to once again to twist the blood and confuse tacticians from all nations.
This championship has seen the overnight lead change hands no less than four times over its course, with teams from Australia, the UK and France carrying the yellow sticker on their mainsails at various points. The marker certainly seemed to weight heavy on the mind and, coupled with the fluid conditions, it served up a contest right to the end.
And what an end. Breezes of up to 30 knots tore through the race track to drive Achille Nebout and his crew aboard Le Grand Réservoir / Mazet & A to a well-deserved victory. Considered somewhat a dark horse before this event, and sailing in the shadow of his more celebrated compatriot Robin Follin (2015 world champion), Achille posted a 1,2 today to finalise matters. Richard Powell from the UK, with Ben vines on the stick, completed the top 3 in an international clean sweep. Black flags played a part today with top Aussie contender and early series leader Michael Cooper on Export Roo suffering at the hands of line officials in the final race to struggle home in sixth place.
In a series that kept giving, the drama continued right to the prize giving. With peels of ‘La Marseilles’ ringing in the background, the winning French crew couldn’t contain their exuberance when handed the rather expensive looking Waterford crystal perpetual trophy, hoisting it aloft with the same gusto they showed on the race course to send it sailing through the air as the crowd looked on in disbelief. It shattered into at least a few pieces. Thankfully the hardwood base, with the roll call of previous world champions, remained intact to record future winners. On this form they could well be French.
Unfortunately the Irish challenge petered out at the back end of the regatta, with a combination of the variable conditions and the gear failure catching up with crews over the last 2 days. A 2nd place in race 11 put ProvidentCRM.com (Sin Bin - Mick O’Connor, John Malone and Ed Cook) in a great position to break back into the Top 10 overall with one race remaining, only to see them throw a batten somewhere on the course. Ultimately it mattered little as they too were black flagged on their final start to cement 13th place in the final standings. While they were disappointed, one only has to look up at the sailing credentials of the top crews to put this result into some perspective. It was a very solid result.
The Irish youth team on Bin Eadair (Cillian Dickson, Sam O’Byrne, Gordon Stirling, Diana Kissane) had a torrid day to finish up on 23rd overall. A broken pole outhaul in race 12 pushed them to unfamiliar company at the back of the fleet. Sitting in the top 10 for much of this regatta, this was a hard one for them to take but their mature perspective post-regatta is impressive. They have proven they can mix it with the best in the world and I am confident that with more time on the water together they will eat at the top table soon enough.
The final day saw our crew on Venuesworld.com (Ger Dempsey, Ted Laverty, Emily Pollard, Chris Nolan) nail out best result of the series in race 11 with a firm 22nd. Hitting speeds of 17 knots downwind, with Ger ( or “Gurr” to the locals) impressively dodging layers of starboarders threating to T-bone us in surfing conditions, our final race was decided by a broken kite halyard on the last downwind leg. We arrived home in 39th place overall. Room for improvement but the experience has been amazing.
I probably need more time to accurately process all the take-aways from this event. It is glaringly obvious that the more practised crews excelled on the water here and one cannot expect to do well without time served together. Position off the start line has been key all week with few boats being able to make up deficit of a poor launch on the course. The standard is just too high. And mark roundings can make or break your series in this fleet – the ‘Dead Zone’ is far reaching and without speed after the spreader mark you are a dinosaur. I’ve probably simply covered the basics of fleet racing here, but it accounts for 70% of any result.
If you’re reading as a competitive sailor, You now have a great opportunity to be part of the excitement with the SB20 European Championships being held in the in Dublin in August 2018. Being hosted by the Royal Irish Yacht Club, international teams from Australia, the UK, France, Italy and Portugal among others are expected to attend. More details are available here
I have enjoyed this regatta immensely and have appreciated the opportunity to keep you all informed of events down here. The racing, the local welcome and the conditions have been memorable – as has been the comradery and support of the Irish fleet who have been there for each other at all times. Before I sign off I would like to make special mention of David Barry, a seasoned SB20 helm and popular Irish sailor, who passed away in late 2017. Dave’s absence was felt down here as it will be by all Irish SB20 sailors when the local season starts in late spring. His infectious laughter, goodwill and competitive streak would have enabled the Irish fleet to win even more hearts and minds on this side of the world. Sadly missed but never forgotten - Ar dheas Dé go raibh a anam.