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An interview with John Wolfe on the 2022 Ultimate 20 North American Championship

by David Schmidt 6 Sep 08:00 PDT September 9-11, 2022
U20s in action on San Francisco Bay © Image courtesy of the Ultimate 20 North American Championship

The vision was simple: To create a monohull with the kind of lickety-split performance associated with multi-hulls. Naval architect Jim Antrim, Olympic medalist Jay Glaser, and 505 builder Larry Tuttle combined their diverse expertise to create a fast, lightweight, dry, and stable boat that could be trailered without much fuss, and which provided some belowdecks space.

Add in a generous-sized cockpit, and the result was the Ultimate 20, a boat that was built by the W.D. Schock Corporation, and which debuted in 1995. The boat measures 20'10" LOA, carries 18' on the waterline and 8'6" of beam, and can press ample sail area to a breeze. It displaces 1,260 pounds, of which 450 pounds is ballast, and it's commonly raced in PHRF or One Design fleets.

Take, for example, the 2022 Ultimate 20 North American Championship, which will be contested on the waters of San Francisco Bay from September 9-11, and which is being hosted by the Richmond Yacht Club, in Richmond, California.

I checked in with John Wolfe, regatta chair of the 2022 Ultimate 20 North American Championship, via email, to learn more about this exciting championship-level One Design regatta.

How many boats are you expecting on the starting line(s) of this year's regatta?

We expect 12 to 15 boats.

Generally speaking, what kinds of conditions can sailors expect on the waters of San Francisco Bay in mid-September?

The Richmond Yacht Club location is often referred to as the Richmond Riviera and September is the warmest, sunniest and most moderate wind month of the year.

At this general location, the race committee has the option of setting the courses anywhere between the protected waters of Angel Island and the "slot" between the Golden Gate Bridge and Berkeley.

The goal will be to find brisk winds in an area with reduced wave height that allows the relatively flat bottom of the U20s to perform to their maximum potential.

Do you see local knowledge playing a big or small role in the regatta's outcome? Can you please explain? For example, will out-of-towners know about the Cone of Alcatraz?

Local knowledge will be of most importance in our long-distance race. In the past, the fleet has had a pre-race briefing by one or more local sailors on what to expect on the course.

For example, in addition to the Cone of Alcatraz, when going along the City Front or through Raccoon Straight between Angel Island and Tiburon, it may be important to seek current relief along the shorelines.

In the ideal world, how many races do you and the other organizers hope to score? Also, will these be triangles of windward-leeward courses?

We plan on having one long distance race and six to seven windward-leeward races with one throughout race.

If you could offer one piece of advice to visiting (and local) sailors, what would it be?

Take advantage of everything quant Point Richmond has to offer. Several local restaurants have sponsored our event and we hope to see many U20 sailors around town.

If you're from out of town, think about taking a couple of extra days to explore the city.

Do you have any entries that you're eyeing for podium finishes? What about any dark horses who you think could prove to be fast, once the starting guns begin sounding?

In our fleet, we have found the traveling entries to be very competitive. I would expect to see a couple of them on the podium.

Make no mistake, we have fast local boats that will also be in contention.

What about onshore entertainment? What can sailors look forward to once the finishing guns have gone silent each day?

After the racing Friday, Anchor Brewing Company is providing beer, and there will be dinner available at the club or at local restaurants in Point Richmond.

Saturday night is the fleet dinner at Richmond Yacht Club, including a slide show of the event and a raffle.

After the racing Sunday, there are the awards.

Can you please tell us about any efforts that the club has made to green-up the regatta and generally lower its environmental wake?

Richmond Yacht Club encourages reusable water bottles and there are bottle filling stations located around the club. The club also has convenient recycling.

Is there anything else that you'd like to add, for the record?

The U20 fleet has been holding its annual North American Championship since 1995.

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