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Ireland’s SB20s Being Led into Bright Future by John Malone

11th May 2020
They’re coming up the bay – the SB20 class will stage their 2023 Worlds in Dublin Bay from the National YC, with an increasingly busy buildup in the Irish class towards September 2023 once the Lockdown has concluded They’re coming up the bay – the SB20 class will stage their 2023 Worlds in Dublin Bay from the National YC, with an increasingly busy buildup in the Irish class towards September 2023 once the Lockdown has concluded

Not every sailing class in Ireland gets a monthly update from its President which opens with a quote from Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. But then, it’s not every Class President who can so readily re-organise his busy working week that he’s able to disappear off into the wide blue yonder at less than 24 hours notice as co-skipper on a MiniTransat 650, campaigning the 320-mile Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race.

Yet it’s all in a week’s work, as you might say, for Irish SB20 Class President John Malone of Lough Ree Yacht Club, who was in the front of the queue when the fates were distributing treble doses of lifetime energy. He had sailed just once on Galway Bay with Yannick Lemonnier on the MiniTransat 650 Port of Galway. But last June, with PoG already in Dun Laoghaire and all set to go in the Dingle race, it had looked like no-go for the little boat, as Yannick’s regular co-skipper Dan Mill had sustained a knee injury which wasn’t going to come right within a week, let alone overnight.

Racing a MiniTrasat is highly athletic, and you have to be 200% fit to do it. But regularly racing in an SB20 isn’t exactly a case of lolling about on the lee deck enjoying the sunshine either. So in a stroke of genius, Yannick thought to ring John as a long shot, and he hit the bullseye, getting an instant able shipmate, and at the same time providing the rest of us with the off-the-wall Malone view of what it’s like to race flat-out offshore in a 21ft boat that at times was out-performing boats well over twice her size.

sb20 malone ocoineen2“John Malone shakes hands on big deal with Enda O Coineen” Any business page editor would give his eye teeth to publish a photo with that caption. Yet it just happens to be a different John Malone, but there’s no doubting the legendary strength of the President of the Irish SB20 Class’s pre-Covid-19 handshake grip on Enda at the class’s annual dinner at the beginning of March in the Royal Irish YC in Dun Laoghaire. Also in photo are SB20 World Council President Jerry Dowling and prize-winner Jimmy Dowling

So when the latest SB20 missive pinged in this weekend, we wondered what John Malone would think of next. And in his opening Presidential musings on the current crazy situation, he thought that Russia’s revolutionary Lenin was appropriate, and gave it both barrels: “There are decades when nothing happens” said Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, “and there are weeks when decades happen”.

Quite. Make of that what you will, and how it relates to our peculiar times. Some of us aren’t even sure what times those are. A very keen and extremely frustrated sailing man we know asked his wife of many years in their shared lock-down what day it was, and she replied: “ It’s May……I think”.

Anyway, John Malone tell us that recent days have been a period where a decade of progress has been made in the Irish SB20 class in a week, due in no small part to the prodigious negotiating and presentation skills of Justin Burke and his team from the National Yacht Club in securing the SB20 Worlds for the 8th to 15th September 2023.

sb20 prizes3The youngest prize-winning helm in Irish SB20 racing is 16-year-old Ben Graff of Lough Ree YC. He couldn’t be at the dinner, but clubmate Emmet Sheridan (centre) collected the Mephisto Cup on his behalf from Irish Class President John Malone (left) and SB20 World Council President Jerry Dowling.

This reflects the fact that the class’s international programme has been shifted back a clear year, with 2020 - in terms of global events – becoming the Year That Never Was. Thus in the re-invigorated and rapidly-growing Irish SB20 group of travellers, they’re looking forward to the big one in Cascais in Portugal in 2021 (29th August to 3rd September). Then while the worlds of 2022 may be too distant in Singapore, the Europeans at St Petersburg in Russia may tempt, and then suddenly it’s 2023 and everyone’s in Ireland,

But while the international programme may be hyper-reduced or non-existent this year, the Irish class is active right now in developing Online Coaching and Virtual Regatta during May, supported by a grant from Irish Sailing. It starts on the evening of this Tuesday – 8.0pm May 12th – and continues for three weeks in all under the direction of Shane Hughes from North Sails, the agenda for the first night giving us a flavour of it all:

  • 1 Preparation – planning your programme/campaign efficiently
  • 2 Upwind focus – trim & setup, kinetics & weight movement to improve performance, onboard communication
  • 3 Focus on tacks – what elements feed into the perfect tack
  • 4 Windward mark-roundings and sets - straight set or gybe set? Which to go for and why – will include rules discussion.
  • 5 Virtual Regatta – 3 races 

More details and registration from this link - please note that the Training Session is only open to SB20 Class Association members, but up to 4 registrations are allowed per member boat.

As for Actual Sailing In Real Time (I suppose somebody has long since noticed that the acronym for In Real Time is IRL….?) the SB20s will, of course, be afloat and racing as soon as there’s the slightest hint of permission from Sports Ireland and Sailing Ireland while bearing in mind the proven military dictum that you should always be planning, but any rigidly fixed plan never survives the first contact with the enemy.

President Malone rounds out his lively bulletin with fond memories of the class’s annual dinner, which was staged at the Royal Irish Yacht Club in early March just days before the Lockdown, and those present naturally included the SB20 World Council President, for he happens to be Ireland’s own Jerry Dowling, and also celebrity Irish S B20 sailor Enda O'Coineen. This provided a photograph which business page editors might mistakenly leap at, of John Malone giving Enda O'Coineen a very firm handshake. Not the John Malone they would be thinking of, maybe. But there’s no doubting the strength of that handshake.

sb20 prizes4Getting ready to party as if there’s no tomorrow, which in a very real way was true. Former Irish Class President Colin Galvin (right) receives the Sin Bin Trophy for Services to the SB20 Class from Irish President John Malone and World Council President Jerry Dowling at the Irish class’s annual dinner, the last major sailing social event before the Lockdown camped into place.

Published in SB20
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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SB20 (formerly Laser SB3) information

Designed by Tony Castro, the SB20 is a British-built strict one-design 6.15m keelboat conceived as a wide appeal, affordable, competitive sportsboat for teams of three or four sailors. It is also, arguably, the most successful sportsboat in the world with 800 owners competing regularly in a programme of exciting local, national and international events.

Originally known as the Laser SB3, the SB20 continues to deliver on its pioneering promise: a boat that is fun, fast and easy to sail by anyone of any age; the best value-for-money sportsboat in the market.

The Laser SB3 was designed by Castro and launched in 2002. In 2007 the Laser SB3 was awarded ISAF Recognised Status and the first World Championships were held in Ireland in 2008. In 2012, Tony Castro appointed a new builder, Sportsboat World. At this time, the Laser SB3 was renamed the SB20 and building was returned to the UK from Malaysia. The ethos of the class continues.

The boat is a strict one-design class, economic to buy and campaign, easy to sail with a simple deck layout and electric downwind performance delivered by the generous sail plan. The boat has a lifting keel, can easily be launched from a slipway and towed behind a family car.

Previous SB20 World Champions

2008 GBR: Geoff Carveth, Roger Gilbert, Roz Allen & Sarah Allan

Host National Yacht Club, Dun laoghaire, Ireland

2009 GBR: Craig Burlton, Stephen White, Adam Heeley

Host Clube Naval de Cascais, Cascais, Portugal

2010 GBR: Jerry Hill, Grant Rollerson, Joe Llewellyn

Host Circolo Vela Torbole, Lake Garda, Italy

2011 GBR: Geoff Carveth, Andy Ramus, Ian Mills & Emma Clarke

Host Royal Torbay Yacht Club, Torquay, UK

2012 GBR: Geoff Carveth, Lesley Dhonau, Roger Hudson & Asenathi Jim

Host Hamilton Island Yacht Club, Queensland, Australia

2013 GRB: Craig Burlton, Stephen White, Adam Heley Host COYCH Club, Hyeres, France

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