We find out more about the burgeoning SB20 fleet in Dubai and meet Jeff Bright, a man on a mission to boost the numbers of SB20s in the UAE.
SB20 Fleet: Dubai Offshore Sailing Club, United Arab Emirates
Sail Number: USA 3727
Crew: Grant Richmond-Coggin, Mike Shaw
Why did you choose to sail in the SB20 fleet? I come primarily from racing big boats but I got to do a regatta (Key West Race Week) many years ago in a Melges 24. From that point on, I fell in love with Sportsboat One-Design racing and vowed one day I want to get into OD racing in them.
Life and work just never cooperated until I moved to Dubai 3 years ago. I raced IRC big boats here for a couple of years, but saw that the Dubai Offshore Sailing had an active fleet of SB20s. So last year I finally made the move and bought a second-hand one, and now I’m totally hooked. In fact, I like them so much – I bought two more (one new and one is Jerry Hill’s old boat 3037) so I could build up the local fleet here.
What is your and your crew’s experience in one-design racing? We are all fairly new to OD sailing. I got into sailing pretty late in life, so I was never one of these young kids who grew up with a tiller in my hand.
I used to own and campaign a J/29, so that was really my first and only real sustained OD experience, other than occasionally crewing in assorted regattas on various boats like J/105s, Farr 40s, Flying Tiger 10M, etc.
My other crew Mike (kite trimmer) comes from a skiff and windsurfing background and is a natural so far in the SB, even though he has not been in his first formal SB20 race yet. Grant (on mainsheet) comes primarily from big boats like me, but he raced with me for the last half of the previous season and has also become hooked on how much fun the SB20 is.
Which events are you planning to compete in during 2014? Due to the somewhat isolated nature of living in the Middle East, there isn’t a lot of easy travel opportunities for the fleet – so we are going to concentrate on the local fleet racing for now as we learn our new boat. My ultimate goal is to race in the SB20 Worlds in Torbole next year in 2015. I’ve never sailed in Lake Garda and that would be a dream for me.
Do you have a favourite SB20 sailing memory? Yes, when my new 2014 boat finally showed up in the shipping container from Southampton a few weeks ago. It was like Christmas in Aug.
Where is your favourite sailing location? Pensacola Bay, Florida (USA). That’s where I learned to sail and it’s a great sailing venue.
If you could change one thing about the SB20, what would it be? As for the boat… nothing really comes to mind. The new boats coming off the factory line are really well sorted and ready to race the day it arrives. I just wish we had more of them in Dubai… but I’m working on that. We have 11 boats now but my goal is to eventually get to 20-plus, and possibly host an international SB20 event like a Midwinter, and then someday the SB20 Worlds here.
When you’re not sailing, what do you do? I teach UAE Air Force pilots how to fly (the boat’s official name will be ‘Cockpit’).