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North Sails Performance 2023 - LEADERBOARD

Charlotte Borghesi, the first woman to win the SB20 World Championship

by Anna Zyk 27 Feb 05:40 PST
DDF SB20 World Championships © Mike Brignall

The exciting SB20 World Championship, full of emotions, is over and we have our new SB20 World Champion. Team Kidzink of Charlotte Borghesi, Pippa Kenton-Page, Artem Basalkin and Gonçalo Lopes marked not only the first UAE victory in the competition, but also a historic moment as Charlotte Borghesi became the first female helmswoman to claim the championship with a 50% female team. How this became possible and what are the team's plans for the future we asked the members of this winning crew.

The overwhelming dominance of team Kidzink through the whole Championship with race results ranging from 16th to the 2nd made many followers of the event speechless. Moreover, the team won the title without scoring a single bullet, which also deserves a round of applause! Pippa Kenton-Page, Olympic Gold medallist and strategist onboard Kidzink reflects on the Championship: "The 2024 Dubai Duty Free SB20 Worlds was a really fantastic event both on and off the water, providing a really challenging mixture of conditions to the fleet. From offshore shifty and gusty conditions to steadier thermal wind days and tidal influences, the fleet were tested in a variety of conditions from 6-20 knots and it was really enjoyable and challenging to race on an ever changing race track with a really new team."

We first met Charlotte at the SB20 Worlds 2022 in Ireland, where she sailed with Libby Greenhalgh on the helm flying the Kidzinnk spinnaker over Dublin bay. Then, they finished 28th overall and Charlotte remembers: "Sailing with Libby was a great experience for me and gave me my first experience racing in a large fleet. It was a last minute plan and at that time I didn't have the experience to drive the boat."

Last year at Scheveningen Worlds the only two UAE teams were Supersonic and Yalla Shamal! - Kinzink focussed on sailing on home waters to enter the 2024 Dubai Duty Free Worlds well prepared. The SB20 Class is proud to have such a dedicated and determined team as a winner and, no doubt, everyone is curious to know more about this super talented lady from Dubai and how did she make it possible.

Charlotte Borghesi a mother of 7, an athlete and a busy business owner has been living in Dubai for almost 15 years. Born and raised in the UK she met her husband Paolo and they became partners in everything - in life, in business and in sport. "While sailing is not Paolo's first love and main passion, he decided to join and compete in the SB20 World to be together and maybe he will now put together another high performing team so we can continue to make the impossible possible," - said Charlotte.

Charlotte believes that our upbringing and the role models we choose greatly influence who we become. With a thirst for learning, action and adventure, she has been involved in competitive sports since childhood, drawing inspiration from figures like Margaret Thatcher for their unwavering determination and bold leadership. Alongside her husband Paolo, Charlotte shares a deep commitment to their family vision, prioritising being together and share experiences in all aspects of life. Together, they strive to defy expectations and make the impossible possible, not just for themselves but for their children as well.

Charlotte believes that she has found her home in Dubai: "I am attracted by big daring goals. The UAE, where I have spent my last 14 years with my family and it will be my home forever, is built and moved forward behind the vision of making the impossible possible because this country sets unreasonably challenging goals and then allocate resources, talents and energy to achieve them like nobody else. Dubai and the UAE would not be what they are without this vision."

The start of Kidzink sailing project and Charlotte's sailing background

In November 2023 Charlotte decided she wanted to do her best in sailing instead of just doing it for fun. She gathered a team with Artem, Goncalo, and her friend Pippa, that was later completed by experienced sailor Rodion Luka as a coach. "I first went sailing in Hornsea in Yorkshire with my grandad on his Enterprise and spent a number of years sailing as a teenager on lasers, GP14 and FF's," - recollects Charlotte, - "I then had a massive break until I moved to Dubai - apart from a few sailing holidays and trips on our keel boat I didn't do any competitive sailing until the SB20 Worlds in Ireland 18 months ago." Charlotte got excited about sailing again when she saw the SB20 fleet growing in Dubai: "I saw the fleet developing at DOSC and knew I was anted to get back into sailing". She first bought an older boat from Portugal to test it and later got a new one to compete in Ireland.

Team responsibilities and duties on and off the water

In Team Kidzink, roles are clearly defined, much like in any successful team "and also like in a fully functional family," - says Charlotte. "Pippa is our strategist - she reads the team, the weather, water and the race like nobody else, Artem is our tactician and Gonçalo is our trimmer and bowman and is the planner and the perfectionist! Rodion Luka joined us as our coach and I cannot think about a better person for each role". The members trust each other and assign tasks based on everyone's strengths. The male members take care of the boat's maintenance, ensuring it performs at its best during races. Charlotte is the leader of the team and takes charge as the driver, focusing on steering: "I drive as accurately as possible not wasting distance in mark roundings and making the boat go as fast as I possibly can upwind and downwind!"

Artem Basalkin is not new to getting a team together and winning the World Champion's title in a last-minute scenario. Few weeks before the SB20 Worlds 2022 he made up a team with José Paulo Ramada and together with Gonçalo Lopes and Carlota Gala they brilliantly won it. Artem is a highly skilled sailor and watching him recover the boat from a bad start is a true masterpiece! In his feedback about the SB20 Worlds 2024 he mentions great teamwork together with Charlotte as a driver and with Pippa's professional sailing approach. "The currents in Dubai are very tricky and having a local pro was key," - he said. Artem joins Charlotte in praising the support of such an amazing coach like Rodion Luka whose help was invaluable. "Rodion helped set the working rhythm for our team and helped clarify our unique roles and how to work as a team," - said Charlotte. "He brought great discipline and structure to our program."

Coach Rodion Luka said that he had focused on helping the team to communicate better and plan race strategies considering wind and tide changes in Dubai. While tides mattered, he mainly prepared the team to adapt to a situation and make fewer mistakes, boosting their confidence to make smart decisions during races. "At the end the team had "the Flow," - highlights Rodion. - "They went into the race not necessarily to win but to do the best they could in the art of yacht racing."

Gonçalo Lopes commented that they have approached the event with modest expectations, aware that achieving a top 5 position would also require some luck. Their strategy focused on simplicity, opting for a "low risk, low density" approach during starts to avoid BFDs and then building their own race based on their speed.

The Kidzink sailing team project - plans for the future

Charlotte hopes for the continued longevity of her sailing project foreseeing its activity for many years to come. The team's upcoming intentions are to test their skills in the Italian summer league in the RS21 Class, followed by the RS21 Worlds in Gerona, Spain in early September. Their ambitious itinerary continues with the plans to participate in the SB20 Europeans in Malta in late September - early October. Despite a surplus of ideas Charlotte confirmed that these are the plans for the foreseeable future: "I believe this is the beautiful lesson of sport - what you get out is a function of what you put in. Sometimes, you get back 100% (like for us in the SB20 Worlds), sometimes this is not possible but the learning and the beauty of the learning journey remains," - she concludes on the team plans.

The SB20 as the boat of choice for Kidzink and reasons behind it

Charlotte expressed her affection for the SB20 boat, highlighting its allure and versatility. She describes the SB20 as not just a boat, but a captivating experience, noting its striking appearance on the water, "a bit 'angry looking' on the start line" - she said. Charlotte highlights the inclusive nature of the SB20, emphasising that while exceptional fitness is not a prerequisite, agility and good physical form enhance the sailing experience. Drawing parallels to the Laser class, she underscores the thrill of being part of a four-person team, each member relying on the other's strengths and expertise. Our new World champion enjoys the importance of tactical maneuvers sailing the SB20 upwind and the "cool surfing downwind reaching speeds of up to 20 knots," - mentioned Charlotte. "The one-design element and the global nature of the class offer lots of interesting sailing opportunities, so we won't be quitting any time soon! It's also a great boat for women to sail on a completely even footing to men"

Pippa Kenton-Page shares Charlotte's admiration for the SB20 boat, describing it as a discovery that she has come to cherish. She praises both the boat and the welcoming SB20 fleet, noting its resemblance to the Yngling without the drop hiking. Pippa highlights the SB20's unique blend of characteristics, combining the agility of a dinghy with the stability of a small keelboat. She emphasises its technical prowess, yet simplicity that makes it accessible to sailors of all levels. Kenton-Page marvels at the intensity of SB20 fleet racing, noting its unforgiving nature and the need for impeccable teamwork, sail control, steering, and strategy. "With no room for error, the class showcases incredibly close racing from 5 to 25 knots for experienced and less experienced sailors of all ages alike - my favourite aspect of the class, it really is a class for everybody in the sport," - said Pippa.

The message from the winning female team to all the sailing women

In response to this question Pippa reflected on her extensive sailing career, spanning mixed teams and fleets, where she honed her skills alongside male teammates and competitors from her youth sailing days to her Olympic campaign. Despite competing in gender-split fleets, Pippa found being female to be not a disadvantage, but often an advantage evidenced by her numerous victories in the UK Cadet, 29er and 420 Nationals. She praised the SB20 class for its inclusivity, allowing mixed teams to race in any position on the boat, fostering a collaborative environment where everyone can leverage each other's strengths regardless of gender. Pippa celebrates the current female representation in sailing, noting the increasing opportunities for women in professional sailing and the importance of role models for aspiring young sailors. With optimism for the future, Pippa anticipates the continued growth of female participation in sailing, confident in their ability to compete on par with their male counterparts.

Charlotte's message was strong and persuasive: "In a sport like sailing women should be capable to win 50% of the competitions. So go for it. Do not stop! Do not hesitate to make the IMPOSSIBLE POSSIBLE. I also think sailing at high level is a test of leadership, team-work, strategy, tactics and execution all together. Great school of life. Let's go for it - let's unleash our potential!"

The SB20 Class continues to march over the continents and the the next big international event is scheduled for Malta on the 24th of September with the SB20 Europeans to be hosted by the Royal Malta Yacht Club. For more information about the 2024 SB20 Europeans please visit sb20europeans2024.com.

If you wish to re-live the recent SB20 Dubai Duty Free World Championships please visit dedicated website: worlds2024.sb20class.org

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