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SB20 World Championships 2019 at Hyères - Practice Day

by SB20 Class 21 Oct 2019 02:27 PDT 20-25 October 2019

Hyères greeted the 65-strong SB20 fleet with dramatic skies and rough seas making sure everyone is prepared for the conditions in this renowned sailing spot, where the SB20 Class has last raced its World Championship in 2012.

The participants list represents a vast spread of the current SB20 boat owners, farthest from Australia, Singapore and UAE, with majority from France and the UK and this year with a big number from Russia - 10 boats! Including also Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Belgian, Ukrainian teams and one new country for the Class being Turkey, who recently became active in sportsboat racing back in Istanbul.

Local French sailors dominate the fleet with 18 boats, including some local heroes and sailors from around France. Those to mention of course are the French star sailors Robin Follin, team "Give me Five FFV Youth" (SB20 2015 World Champion) and Gabriel Skoczek FRA "FFVoile Esquichade" (2018 SB20 World Champion) who are both planning to win it, so we expect a battle of these two.

Robin has recently won the SB20 Grand Slam event here in Hyères in a fleet of 33 boats, when Gabriel was less fortunate on the last day and finished in the 6th place. However the spirit is high and both are confident in their performance and in their teams.

"SB20 is a fast boat in strong wind and our objective is clear, if we are back to SB20 Class we are here to win the title again. We did a good preparation in the last month also winning 6 races out of 9 in the Grand Slam two weeks ago. The team is ready and the boat is ready too, we are in great shape. We will give our maximum to win this competition!" - said Robin Follin ahead of tomorrow's racing. Robin will be sailing with his long standing sailing partner Emeric Michel, sharing tactics duties with Gauthier Germain, his winning crew from Diam 24 and Laurie Candela, also coming from Diam 24.

"For this week we would like to defend our title from Hobart [SB20 World Championship 2018]. It's a new team, but we want the same result. The weather will be really cloudy (sorry for that!), but we cannot decide. We hope for three or four French team to be in Top 5 or even on the podium, but we wish the best of luck to everyone in the fleet," - said Gabriel Skoczek. For this week Gabi's crew are Lucas Chatonnier, with whom they were vice champions in Cascais at SB20 Worlds 2016 recently sailing together on Diam 24, Sandro Lacan also coming from Diam 24, where he was third in Tour de France [de la Voile] and Cassandre Blandin, who never sailed SB20s before, but is "a very good sailor" according to Gabriel.

Among other French teams on potentially strong lead there is the local Marie Barrue, COYCH Laser sailor who was 5th at the Worlds in Japan this year and won the Laser Europa Cup in 2017. Alain Roig, team "Rhapsodie" a Melges 24 sailor turned SB20 sailor with another French talent on the helm - Hugo Feydit, a 470 sailor and foiling enthusiast, recently with a number of top places in sportsboat competitions as well as IRC circuits.

Another big local name, Jean Baptiste Bernaz - 4 times Olympian in Laser class will be sailing a very special regatta with his family. Father Laurent Bernaz is turning 60 and together with brother Antoine they are celebrating the anniversary, also supported by the Club issuing the bow number 60 for them.

The UK Class as always strongly represented with 12 boats there are a number of names to watch during next week. John Pollard on Xcellent who is recently sailing with the British Squad's Jack Wetherell, having won both the UK and the Open French championships, that happened earlier in Hyères. In the SB20 Hyères Grand Slam 2019 that happened two weeks earlier, they were second.

Among other competitors on the UK side there is team Breaking Bod of Charlie Whelan sailing with Gerry Mitchell, a match racer and a sailor in many Classes, Christian Sutherland on Reach Around, who won the overall UK Series 2018, and team Poor Buoy II of Mark Gillet sailing with the SB20 UK Class President Paul Hine.

On the Russian side the strongest competitors will be the last year's SB20 Europeans winning tactician, Artem Basalkin on B-Team with helmsman Alexey Lesnikov, who - as a team - have been seen on the podium in several big competitions in Russia this year and confirm a good progress in their sailing skills. The 2016 SB20 Worlds winner team New Territories of Alexey Semenov, sailing with Hugo Rocha (POR) and Fran Palacio (ESP) also taking extra weight onboard with young Maria Diz. That was their winning team setup back in Cascais in 2016, when they invited onboard a local Optimist sailor, but this time the owner Alexey will be at the helm. Vadim Pushev on team Victoria, a Russian sailing coach and 49er sailor with the Russian Class president, has won a number of Russian and international events helming on different SB20 boats.

Four boats from Australia will be competing and representing some strong teams again there is Brett Cooper on Aeolus, who has showed solid results in the recent pre-Worlds event here in Hyères, having finished second in the French Nationals.

Another Aussie Team - Porco Rosso of Paul James with Elliot Noye helming, a Corinthian team "probably sailing in their most competitive fleet ever" (as per the helmsman), have easily built a significant lead in today's Practice Race. They were second in the SB20 Europeans in 2018 in Dublin, also awarded as the best Corinthian team there.

One more solid country representation is from Netherlands with six boats and there are 3J's of Jeroen van der Velden and Buitenhuis Advies of Martijn Buitenhuis who have been sailing in top places in their home country as well as travelled internationally in the recent years. Marco van Driel the 2019 National Champion as well as 2019 Open Belgium Champion with his crew Joost Assman and Martyn Worseling will be a tough one to beat given the Dutch ability to sail if rough conditions. Belgium is also in with two boats of SB20 Belgium President Bart Tytgat on Go With The Flow usually sailing in top places in their home waters in Ostend.

Portugal is with four boats including the Olympian Vasco Serpa sailing with his long-standing Animal/SailCascais crew and José Paulo Ramada on Dom Pedro, Portuguese national Champion and a great SB20 enthusiast in the country, dedicated to the Class frequent sponsor of local competitions.

Italy is back on the SB20 map with one of them representing Marina di Pisa, a new destination that is developing the Class there with the efforts of Paolo Trevisan, team Dwein. Gian Matteo, the Italian Class President on Spread 500 will be sailing with coach Ian Ainslie.

Single entries are from Singapore, Turkey and Ukraine with strong teams being the latter of Julia Freespirit on #GameChanger sailing with 470 Olympic sailor Pavlo Matsuev and double SB20 Ukrainian champions Semen Dmitrenko and Viktor Kandyba. They showed some good results in recent pre-Worlds event here in Hyères and finished the Practice Race today in third.

The weather forecast makes the sailors a bit worried and the majority of the boats restrained from the Practice race on Sunday, that saw 20-22 knots of wind from East causing a choppy wave making it spectacular on the roundings at top mark for the downwind. Something that SB20 is so popular for!

The opening day on Monday looks like there will be less wind and more shifts, making it really hard for the tacticians, but we will see who can do it best.

Full results available here.

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