At the press conference held on Thursday prior to the event the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club (DOSC) Commodore Simon Reeves, Dubai Duty Free Chief Operating Officer Ramesh Cidambi, Race Director Alan Ruigrok and Rear Commodore Ed Shiffner gathered to to discuss the highlights of the SB20 Event Series that have been generously supported by Dubai Duty Free in the last couple of years. The SB20 World Championships come as the culmination of this ongoing partnership, which impacts the region and the sailing scene here in Dubai.
As the exciting Dubai Duty Free SB20 Asia Pacific Championships wrapped up last week, the SB20 sailors and Class fans are anticipating the upcoming 2024 Dubai Duty Free SB20 World Championships set to commence this weekend at DOSC. With a sneak peek into the conditions and expectations provided by the Australian competitors, who described the pre-Worlds event as a challenging test with strong winds from up to 25 knots and tricky current and tide due to many man-made island and peninsulas in the area, the stage is set for an exhilarating showdown among the world’s best sailors. Despite the forecasts suggesting lighter breezes, teams remain focused on the task ahead, adopting a race-by-race approach while remaining confident yet cautious.
“The level is super high at the moment; we have a lot of professional teams and really good sailors,” said Alan Ruigrok after the Asia Pacifics. “We can also see our own DOSC fleet improving. The level has increased dramatically in the last couple of months with all our efforts that we had put in.”
With diverse representation from 10 nationalities, including a strong contingent of 25 UAE boats, the competition promises to be fiercely contested! Despite challenges posed by global shipping cataclysm in the Gulf, which unfortunately led to the absence of the Irish and Portuguese armadas, teams from around the world are ready to contest for the coveted title. Dubai Duty Free’s continued support adds to the anticipation, underscoring the prestige and excitement surrounding the event.
There is only one returning skipper from last year’s podium – John Pollard, who was the winner of the recent pre-Worlds, and is the holder of multiple national titles and Cascais Winter Series. John is as close as ever to the coveted trophy, which he had contested since 2009 in different team setups.
The competition is still open in this year’s notoriously skilled fleet with the extra challenge of light winds and tricky currents adding to the diversity of the event. Challenging team Xcellent there will be a number of skilled sailors including Desert Eagle 2 of Hendrik Witzmann and his fellow Dragon sailor Henrique Anjos who joined forces with the Olympic silver medallist Georgie Leonchuk, who has lead the SB20 Class in Ukraine for many years. Team Glasgow Kiss – 3rd at the SB20 Worlds 2022 and recent winners of the SB20 Middle East Championships in December 2023 of Nilz Razmilovich, will bring their star crew of Nik Burfoot and David Salembier.
Michael Buchanan onboard Rental Car will be sailing with recent Rolex Sydney Hobart winners Darren “Twirler” Jones and Sam Tiedemann, Australian sailors representing Singapore. “Everyone is looking forward to the Worlds getting underway,” said Michael, who secured fourth place in the pre-Worlds. “Sailing is still sailing – so learning heaps. The plan is to approach the Worlds one race at a time, confident but not getting ahead of ourselves.”
The only official Australian entry of Paul McCartney on Porco Rosso will be sailing with David Chapman, bronze winning tactician from SB20 Worlds 2019, and his long term bowman Edward Snowball. Another Aussie and the reigning SB20 World Champion Will Sargent was, unfortunately, unable to get his own team to the event because of the shipping issues, will race aboard P&O Marinas skippered by Mitch Webb, the club’s Sailing Manager.
Another team that made strong entrance at the pre-Worlds event and finished 3rd overall was team Kidzink of Charlotte Borghesi sailing with Olympic Gold champion Pippa Kenton-Page and Artem Basalkin with Gonçalo Lopes, both winners of the SB20 Worlds 2022 in Dun-Laoghaire.
With 6 boats sailing under the French flag there will be two Youth teams, that the French Sailing Federation traditionally sends to the SB20 Worlds as part of a long-standing partnership. Last year the two FFVoile teams have just missed the podium finishing 5th and 7th overall, but the skippers and the teams that get selected for the SB20 Worlds always come from a strong sailing background. In the history of the SB20 World championships at least three times the French Youth teams won the title.
As sailors immerse themselves in the vibrant atmosphere of Dubai, the stage is set for a thrilling and unforgettable championship that will undoubtedly showcase the pinnacle of SB20 sailing. The 2024 Dubai Duty Free SB20 World Championships are planned with up to three races per day, allowing for a total of thirteen races. Flexibility remains key as the Race Committee may opt to hold four races in a day if necessary, ensuring the schedule stays on track and adapting to weather conditions. A minimum of three completed races will constitute the event with the allowance of one discard, when five or more races are completed.
A diverse array of prizes will be awarded, including a standard recognition for the Top three teams overall, the Top three Corinthian teams, and Top three Youth teams. Additional categories include awards for the first Junior Team (50% of crew including the helm being 17 years old or younger), the first Women team, the first Emirati helm, the first Masters team, and the Nations Cup. Who will beat 2023 Nations Cup winners from Portugal this year we will find out soon! Furthermore, daily prizes will be awarded to the best three boats scoring on a particular day, so lots of opportunities for different teams to shine on the podium.
Racing kicks off on the 11th February with a practice race at 1500 (1100 GMT). The official opening ceremony will take place on Sunday at 1830 (1430 GMT). From the 12th to the 16th, each day begins with a skippers briefing at 1130 (0730 GMT) with the first warning signal scheduled at 1300 (0900 GMT). Daily social events, broadcasting and apré-sail will be provided by the hosting Dubai Offshore Sailing Club, who are renowned for their hospitality. Finally, the event culminates in the closing ceremony on the 16th February with the prize-giving ceremony at 1900 (1500 GMT).
At this event tracking will be again provided by Sailmon, as familiar partner for our Class. You can find all information on how to follow here. Best way to be part of the action is to use the Sailmon App. If you haven’t installed it yet on your smartphone or tablet, you’d better do it asap!