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Why I bought an SB20 (Simon Berry GBR 3022)

Why I'm pleased I joined the SB20 class After a single event in our newly acquired SB20 (Betty), I have all the reassurance I need to know that I have made a great decision to join the class. I’m a big boat sailor more than a dinghy sailor, so when the time came to buy my own boat (rather than sail on everyone else’s) I was naturally drawn to keel boats and sports boats, as opposed to dinghies. I looked at the Quarter Tonne class. That had quite a lot of appeal at first, but I then began to realise that I would be spending a lot of money on development, rather than just going sailing. I certainly preferred the idea of one design racing. I’m based just outside of Southampton, so there are lots of classes in and around the Solent, but the two classes with momentum and regular racing are the J/70 and the SB20. In many ways they are very similar. One is slightly bigger and some of the crew hike from. The other the crew are all sat ‘feet in’. But both are asymmetric boats that plane in fairly moderate airs and have some great sailors in each class. The other big difference is the price. From my research used J/70’s started in the low to mid £30k’s, whilst the SB20’s there is currently an SB20 for sale at £6.5k, and the most expensive one for sale, a relative new and championship prepared boat, is for sale at just over £21k. With the SB20 World Championships in Ireland in 2022 and in the Netherlands the following year, I could see that there is going to be some awesome racing coming up in the class over the next couple of years. My gut feeling was that the class is on an upward trajectory. So I set about finding myself the right boat for me. I settled on a very early boat, sail number 3022. They began with 3001). It was up for sail with Sports Boat World, whom are worldwide dealers of new boats and sails etc. It had the advantage of having been back to its original builder, White Formula in Essex, for a check over and some work done to the Keel. It was also still well under the weight limit. Everything pointed to that fact that it could still be a very competitive boat, despite its age and low cost. The boat itself cost £8k. However, it only came with some very old sails. So a new set of sails, some new bits of string and a couple of small bits of deck hardware took the total price up to about £12.5k. But I had a boat that I felt confident would be really competitive and looked great. Then it was off to the first event, the excellently run National Championships hosted by Royal Torbay Yacht Club. We had only just taken delivery of the boat and hadn’t had time to even rig it, let alone sail it before the event. We didn’t know anyone in the class, but that all changed within minutes of being in the marina, trying to figure out what bolted to where. We had so many people come to our aid, welcome us to the class and offer advice, a helping hand and quite a few spare parts that we realised we didn’t have. As the event progressed, we realised we could now have been made to feel more welcome within the class. There were 19 boats racing in Torquay. More than I expected given we were only still just coming out covid related restrictions of various shapes and sizes. We had a real mixtures of results, from a 3rd on the water that turned out to be an OCS, a couple of 5th and 6th, and then lots of ‘back of the pack’ results. The racing is really, really close. A single mistake can totally change your overall position in no time. We did quite a few of those! The conditions were ideal for us. Quite light to start and then some more breeze on the last day. Another thing that struck me was how easy the boat is to sail in stronger breeze. Fully planning gybes seemed very straightforward. The ‘fun to skill’ ratio was very much in our favour. Paul Hine (Class Chairman) commented that our excited faces were worth all the time he gave us getting the boat rigged, when he saw us planning down wind at speed on the last day! But the boat was great. It was quick up wind and down. We occasionally fell out of mode or didn’t change gears quickly enough. That will come with time in the boat. But we saw enough to know that our poor results were entirely down to us. We followed the class tuning guide as best we could to get the initial setup, and that seemed to be a very good baseline. The boat is very simple to sail too. The crew LOVE the fact that they are all ‘legs in’ and don’t have to hike. From my perspective on the helm, it just makes for a much more all-inclusive sailing experience where everyone is more involved in both the eye-in and eyes-out sailing conversations. It seems a much more sociable sailing experience too. Its also a very friendly boat for anyone who feels a little less agile. I am 38 now, but don’t see why I couldn’t still sail the class competitively well into my 70’s if I wanted to. But more importantly for now, I don’t feel I need to be in the gym regularly to mix it with the top boats. Besides the excellent help and support that we received from the class itself, especially from the class Chairman Paul Hine and his team, the class is also professionally supported by Sportsboat World. Liam Pardy of Sportsboat World splits his time commissioning new boats from the factory, and supporting the existing ones. Liam was on hand with his trailer full of spares, in case anyone needed anything at the Nationals and I believe this will be the case at all major class events. I can’t wait to get stuck into some winter sailing, until the more major events come next spring and summer. Everything I’ve seen and experienced so far tells me that we are going to have some fantastic, affordable and close racing next year. We were towards the back in our first event, which was to be expected. But from what we’ve seen, it won’t take us too long to get comfortably into the mid fleet and I am really excited to do some more sailing and get to know the lovely people in the class a little better. I wholeheartedly recommend the SB20 as an affordable, competitive and very exciting boat to sail, but without being difficult to sail. Combined with the class momentum and the upcoming events on the calendar, I can’t imagine there is a better time to get involved in the class either. The class is hoping to have its own boat that prospective new members can try out and do some racing on. Sportsboat World seem to often have used boats for sail or boats that you can test sail too.
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