Over 100 SB20s will gather in Torbole, Lake Garda, Italy for the seventh SB20 World Championships, sponsored by the Italian province of Trentino this Saturday (July 4). Entries are anticipated from up to 15 nations and the competition is sure to be fierce, with up to 14 races scheduled between July 4-10.
The one-design keelboat class recently enjoyed a highly competitive pre-Worlds event, the Italian National Championships (June 19-21), at the same venue of Circolo Vela Torbole on Lake Garda. Lake Garda is renowned for reliable breezes which, combined with stunning Italian sunshine and a spectacular mountain backdrop, make it a favourite destination among racing sailors.
The 2015 World Championships has attracted a highly competitive fleet from around the world. The UK dominated the early years of the SB20 class (the first five world championships had UK winners) but it would be something of a surprise if the 2015 champions were on a British boat. John Pollard and Joe Llewellyn have strong credentials, Rob Gullan has shown flashes of brilliant form, and Sportsboat World’s own Jerry Hill, who was the 2010 World Champion at Torbole, was also top Brit at last weekend’s Italian Nationals. It will be interesting to see if any of the current top British teams have the necessary consistency to win this time around.
The big growth region over the last three years has been Russia. Russia is fielding three strong teams, including Vadim Pushev, RC44 owner Vladimir Proshikin and Italian Nationals runners-up Alexey Murashkin – all have shown strong form and could mount a serious challenge.
From France, SB20 World Council Class President Ed Russo is consistent, and was right in the hunt to win the last Worlds in St Petersburg. The young team skippered by Robin Follin has also been making fast improvements and could well be in the mix. There are also European entries from Portugal, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands.
Olympian Ian Ainslie leads an Italian/South African/Australian team – he was second at the 2010 Worlds and has been looking strong at times this year, while his compatriot Roger Hudson is back with his ‘Race Ahead’ team. The Race Ahead team have plenty of World Championship podium positions to their names over the years and, while they have been concentrating on the 470 recently, will certainly not have forgotten how to put their SB20 in the right place.
There is a strong contingent coming from Australia. Multiple Laser World Champion and long-term SB20 sailor Glenn Bourke has a new boat, and has been practising at Torbole. Meanwhile Michael Cooper’s team from the very strong Tasmanian fleet are recent additions to the class, but there is a lot of experience and talent in their boat, and they finished a strong fifth at the recent Italian nationals.
Probably the favourite, however, is Rodion Luka from Ukraine. Rodion is a 49er Olympic silver medallist, and his crew includes former 470 world champion Igor Matviyenko. Rodion has been in the SB20 class for five years and has won virtually everything on offer, apart from the world championships. He struggled at points during the recent Italian Nationals, but may well be the boat to beat.
With 14 races and two discards consistency will be the key, and the ability to convert an indifferent start or poor first beat into a decent result may make all the difference to which team’s name goes on the spectacular glass trophy.
With over 100 boats taking part, the entries will be divided into Gold and Silver fleets, with the Silver fleet sponsored by SB20 builder and distributor Sportsboat World. The event will also see the winners of several categories awarded prizes from sponsors including Hyde Sails, who will be giving a prize for the best Masters team, and the Clarins award for the top Ladies’ boat.