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Cooper leads Aussie SB20 charge to France

by Jane Austin - SB20 AUS Media 7 Sep 10:24 PDT 19-25 October 2019
LtoR: Paul McCartney, Ed Snowball, Elliott Noye, Lewis Noye, Issi De Klerck, Emily Nicholson, Andrew Smith, Darren Jones, Jock Calvert and Brett Cooper. © Jane Austin

2017 SB20 National Champion Brett Cooper, with his internationally successful Australian crew of Darren 'Twirler' Jones (main) and Jock Calvert (bow), leads the SB20 Australian charge to France this week.

Cooper, sailing a spanking new SB20 designed by Tony Castro and manufactured by UK based Sportsboatworld and delivered especially to Hyeres, France for racing, begins his campaign on Aeolus next week.

Cooper will be looking to get the boat up to speed as quickly as possible during his first regatta, sailing in the French National Championship from 12-15 September, but is confident his team will have the boat ready.

"With Darren Jones and Jock Calvert, who's in the Australian Sailing Team doing the Olympic campaign in the Finn Class, we've got a lot of depth of knowledge and hopefully that will help us get the boat prepped quickly," said Cooper.

The waters off Hyeres are known for offering up tricky conditions to the local sailors, and the mistral wind, a strong and cold north-westerly wind, has been known to cause havoc on occasion.

Cooper was the best performing Australian skipper in the SB20 Worlds sailed in Hobart in January 2018, finishing in sixth place behind five international teams, with the three French teams ahead of him likely to be sailing in Hyeres.

Cooper will follow the French Nationals with the French Grand Slam, 4-6 October 2019, and the pinnacle event, the World Championship, from 19-25 October. On their return to Australia, the team will have a quick turnaround for the 2019 SB20 Australian Championship which will be sailed on the River Derwent in Hobart during the first weekend of November.

But Australian team Porco Rosso, helmed by Elliott Noye and with owner Paul McCartney (main) and Ed Snowball (bow) onboard, will be hot on Cooper's heels. The 2019 Tasmanian SB20 champions have sailed select regattas over two European summers with considerable success. The team finished third in the 2019 SB20 UK Nationals, second in the 2018 SB20 Europeans in Ireland and won the Corinthian (non-professional) division in the same regatta. The team also finished second in the 2018 SB20 Portuguese National Championship.

"We had two regattas in Europe a couple of months ago and we are feeling good, feeling confident, and ready to get into it. The French are always up there in the top five, but there's definitely good competition from all around the world so we are looking forward to getting there and trying to mix it up with the top guys," said Noye.

Porco Rosso is entered for the French Grand Slam and the 2019 Worlds events.

Local businessman, Andrew Smith of Willie Smiths Apple Shed and Cider, will be hoping the combination of the unstoppable David 'El Chappo' Chapman and current Tasmanian SB20 Youth Champion Lewis Noye, will give The Imp the edge. Chapman, known for his aggressive tactics and competitive nature, will be pushing The Imp hard and must not be under-estimated in this close one-design fleet. The Imp is entered for the French Grand Slam and the Worlds.

"Yes, I'm happy. [Like Brett], we've got a new boat from the same Charter organisation. This is our third attempt at the Worlds; we have been constantly improving and coming up the fleet. The French are incredibly good sailors, they will be difficult to compete against on their home turf, but we've stepped it up. Chappo has had a very good year and has a few wins under his belt from various campaigns, and the Noye brothers are talented sailors and Lewis is great people to have on the boat. We feel prepared," said Smith.

Australia also boasts one of the only all-female youth teams registered for the World Championship. Essence of Athena, sailed under the Derwent Sailing Squadron's Athena Sailing Program, is travelling to Hyeres to compete in the 2019 Worlds event only. With time for only one practice race prior to the Worlds event, the team will have a lot of pressure on them to adjust to the conditions, but with all crew members under 20 years of age, the Essence of Athena team will be looking to build their international experience racing in a fleet of close to 80 boats.

"It's hard getting everyone together as we are a busy group of girls, but we are getting lots of training in. We are heading to Hyeres to sail the best that we can, to have a great experience and to learn lots," said De Klerck.

Anna Reid will helm Essence of Athena the boat, with crew of Issi De Klerck, Meg Goodfellow and Emily Nicholson.

SB20 Australia Class President Stephen Catchpool, who is not competing in the event this year, is quietly confident that the Australians will perform well on the Mediterranean.

"We've got some very strong teams going to the Worlds in France and I'm expecting at least one of them to get a podium result. It will be interesting to see what the weather does at that time of year in Hyeres, but I think the windier it is the better it will suit us," said Catchpool.

Current Australian SB20 Champion Michael Cooper will be in Africa taking a break from SB20 sailing but expects to be back on the water to defend his title in November.

The regattas will be run under the authority of the Cercle De Organisation de Yachting de Competition Hyerois (COYCH) in Hyeres, with the SB20 Class.

Hyeres, France, is widely regarded as the original French Riviera. Located between Marseille and Nice, and boasting a maritime national park, the Medieval Old Town, rosé and Provencal cuisine, Hyeres has no shortage of attractions for the sailors and their support teams.

The SB20 was designed by Tony Castro and is a slick and spectacular one-design class sports boat with a crew weight limit of 270kg.

To follow the regattas, go to or follow SB20Class or SB20Australia on Facebook.

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