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2021 SB20 Asian Grand Slam and Asia Pacific Championship

by Jeremy Chase 7 Feb 01:44 GMT 4-7 February 2021
2021 SB20 Asian Grand Slam and Asia Pacific Championship © Paul O'Malley

The sweet breeze of the North Eastern monsoon has been sweeping the coastline of Singapore for the past three weeks. At this time of year as the palm fronds rattle in the night and temperatures drop to a balmy 27°C, tins of Tiger beer are opened at talk at the yacht club bar inevitable turns to the SB20 Asian Grand Slam and Asia Pacific Championship.

The stunning 1°15 Marina Club on Singapore's Sentosa Island will play host to 25 SB20 crews competing in the 2021 APACs from 4 February to 7 February 2021. Over the course of three days, the organisers have scheduled a tightly packed program of 12 races.

The races will be conducted in the warm waters of the iconic Singapore Strait set against a backdrop of the spectacular Singapore skyline. With the North Eastern monsoon surge well-established by late January, competitors can look forward to 12-15 knots of breeze each day - conditions which are well suited to the SB20 sports sailboat.

Unfortunately, as a result of the on-going COVID-19 situation, entries were limited to just 25 boats for this edition. Limiting numbers means that organisers are able to implement stringent COVID-19 protocols which will ensure a safe regatta environment for all participants. Competitors have been warned that failure to abide by the COVID regulations will result in disqualification from the regatta.

Given global travel restrictions, no international crews have been able to make the journey to Singapore to compete in 2021. However, that does not mean the fleet will be short on competition. During the "off season", boats and crews have traded hands with a ferocity not previously seen in the Singapore fleet. The result is a re-shuffled deck of new owners and new crews. Any one of the 25 entries is capable of winning races on their day and it will be no surprise if we see many different teams taking podium spots in the racing each day.

Early entrant Dean Othman sailing Second Mojo joined the fleet in April and has brought a superbly turned out SB20 that is capable of beating anyone in the fleet. Singapore SB20 Class Chairman and Sailing Stalwart, Nick Cocks and his crew on Zorro are one of the few teams to have sailed together for many years and will surely show good form with polished crew work at the corners.

The "Petite Admiral", Agoston Sipos, dressed nattily in white trousers and sporting a navy sportscoat teamed with a red striped shirt commented that he was "very much looking forward to great racing in the largest one design keelboat fleet in Singapore" adding that he was also looking forward to the warm hospitality of 1°15 Marina Club and the safely distanced camaraderie of an icy cold gin and tonic at the bar at the end of each day.

The growth of the Singapore fleet in recent years is in part due to the support of the Singapore Sailing Federation which has acquired eight boats and makes them available at very competitive charter prices for major events. The APAC is no exception with all eight boats being chartered to local Singapore sailors.

With so much change in the fleet and so many excellent entries to choose from, your humble correspondent will not attempt to pick a winner (at least not until after the Practice Race) but instead wish the fleet and all officials and competitors an excellent regatta.

Race Day 1

For those who say there is no wind near the equator, we invite you to come to come and sail with us in the warm turquoise waters of Singapore during the North East monsoon season. The Singapore SB20 Fleet has enjoyed two days of breeze of the East Coast of Singapore. In bright sunshine, the SB20 crews have revelled in the 12-17kt sailing conditions off the golden sandy beaches of Bedok. For some the breeze has already been too much as spectacular broaches were seen in many of the races and one unfortunate crew had their mast depart over the side of their ship.

The excellent race officer efficiently set a 0.75nm beat with the top mark lying almost under the palm trees of Singapore's delightful East Coast Park - a hub for cycling, windsurfing and kite boarding enthusiasts. Today however, the crowd on the shoreline had the joyful pleasure of watching Mike Buchanan (Rental car) lead the fleet around the top mark in the first three races of the day. Being so close to the shore line made the racing challenging. There were pots of gold lying in wait for those able to navigate the shifty swirling breeze while other teams found only pits of despair.

Race 1 was commenced at the scheduled hour of 12 noon and the fleet of 24 boats (sadly one less due to the broken mast on practice day) leapt out of the starting blocks. After a tricky first beat and a run where it paid to be planing in the puffs, the order eventually shook out with Jovina Choo (SSF 5) leading home Riji Wong (Walababy) and Bernie Chin (Pocapena).

With a schedule of 4 races, the race officer wasted no time in banging away the start for Race 2. As the right side of the track started to dominate the beat, Mike Buchanan (Rental car) led the way to the top mark again. However he slid back down the pack as Agoston Sipos (Tara) sped through the fleet downwind registering a top speed of over 15knots to bag the win. Jovina Choo (SSF 5) and Bernie Chin (Walababy) rounded out the podium.

By Race 3, all of the teams had worked out that although the sandy beaches of Singapore looked pleasant, they offered nothing but treacherous wind shifts. Consequently, the entire fleet followed Mike Buchanan (Rental Car) to the right side of the track. As many an armchair pundit may have predicted, the first top mark rounding was more tightly packed than my grandmother's suitcase on the cruise to nowhere. Having inflicted a penalty on SSF 5, Agoston Sipos' Tara managed to magnificently snag the top mark (for the second time in three races) and tack onto port in front of the entire fleet earning him a penalty from the judicious on water umpires. As the mayhem unfolded, much to the delight of the crowd on the shore, Rental car was finally able to convert a lead into a win. Steve Kennedy (The Sidewalk Café) pulled a second out of the hat and fleet newcomer Daire O'Reilly (Sinbad) snagged a solid third ahead of a close chasing pack of 5 boats.

The breeze piped in for Race 4 which resulted in another casualty as Agoston Sipos (Tara) broke a spreader bracket and retired. This meant that the fleet could enjoy unimpeded top mark roundings and the large fleet of spectator boats were treated to some excellent hoists of the colourful spinnakers. CN Low (Xtra Mile 2) came from nowhere in the first 3 races to win the last race of the day. He was closely followed by Berne Chin (Pocapena) and Riji Wong (Walababy).

As the tired crews started the down wind blast back to the sumptuous 1°15 Marina Club, the SB20 Fleet computer went into overdrive to crank through the permutations and combinations. Finally as the scores were added up, Jovia Choo (SSF 5) (12 points) leads Bernie Chin (Pocapena) (15 points) and Steve Kennedy (The Sidewalk Café) (18 points). Waiting in the wings to pounce on any slip ups by the leaders tomorrow are Riji Wong (Walababy) (19 points), Mike Buchanan (Rental car) (21 points) and Daire O'Reilly (Sinbad) (22 points). What is clear is that the standard of the fleet from top to bottom has improved significantly in the last 12 months (more time on the water and less time travelling) and we have a regatta on our hands.

When approached after racing for a comment on his third place in the standings after Day 1, Steve Kennedy (The Sidewalk Café) lowered his beer mug and uttered a single word - "Strewth". Fleet Treasurer, Robert Jessing (Katana) offered a less Australian (although less pithy) response commenting that "It was a challenging and fun day for all. The 1°15 Marina Club staff and race organisers have been great and the safe distancing and COVID management seems to be working very well."

Race Day 2

The large flotilla of spectator craft which turned out for Day 2 of the SB20 Asian Grand Slam was treated to a spectacular day of racing. The strong monsoonal winds off the beaches of Eastern Singapore continued to deliver a pleasing number of broaches as well as fast sailing. The SB20 sport boats regularly reached more than 15 knots of boat speed in the 15-20 knot winds.

Race 5 was commenced at the appointed hour. The evil effects of the stronger tide became apparent almost immediately as a tightly bunched cluster of boats snarled themselves on the committee boat. Out of the melee, Agoston Sipos (Tara) emerged to take his second win for the regatta narrowly beating the students on Team NUS capably helmed by Jia Yi Loh. Rounding out the podium was regatta leader, Jovina Choo (SSF5).

After Race 4, the sailing became a bit of a one way affair with CN Low (Xtra Mile 2) and team proceeding to put up a picket fence notching up three consecutive wins. However, the rest of the fleet engaged in some tremendous battles for the minor placings.

Having spent most of the night up his mast replacing a broken bracket, Agoston Sipos (Tara) was able to add a second and third place to his tally before being unceremoniously black flagged in Race 8 for failing to read the sailing instructions properly and failing to take the correct penalty after hitting the top mark again - for those keeping score, La Petite Admiral has collected the top mark 3 times in 8 races.

The students had clearly been studying SB20 performance overnight as Riji Wong leading another NUS Team managed to collect three podium places in the last three races of the day with a 2,3,2.

Daire O'Reilly who has recently joined the fleet from Ireland and sails with a team of talented young Singaporeans managed to navigate Sinbad into the final podium spot up for grabs when he snared a third in Race 8. On the dock after sailing Daire was heard to remark "the craic at this regatta is grand, but the Guinness could do with some work".

Further back in the fleet there were tales of monster wind shifts, krakens and whirlpools. Some teams managed to negotiate the hazards with distinction. Singapore SB20 Class Chairman, Nick Cocks (Zorro) added to his top ten results and crept up the standings. The Big Sisters and Big Brothers on the Metazone program which teaches young people in Singapore about sustainability through the medium of sailing had an excellent day on the water posting some strong results. The results are particularly impressive when you consider that one of their helmsmen has been sailing for only 12 months. The cut and thrust of the revved up SB20 Fleet is surely a fiery welcome into the world of competitive sailing.

Meanwhile, others in the fleet found the going more difficult. Steve Kennedy (The Sidewalk Café) couldn't seem to find the same form as Day 1 and slipped down the leader board. When approached for a comment on the dock after sailing, the feisty Australian lowered his beer mug and proffered a one word response - "strewth".

During the speedy run under the iconic Singapore skyline back to the luxurious 1°15 Marina Club, the SB20 Fleet computer cranked into life to spit out the overall results. With all the podium places on Day 2 split between just 5 boats and the first drop coming into play, there was plenty of movement on the leader board. Jovina Choo (SSF 5) (23 points) clings onto her lead by countback to Riji Wong (Walababy) (23points). Daire O'Reilly (Sinbad) (34 points) has clambered into third place ahead of Mike Buchanan (Rental car) (35 points) and Bernie Chin (Pocapena) (38 points). Steve Kennedy (The Sidewalk Café) rounds out our top six and is also on 38 points.

With four more races scheduled from 12 noon tomorrow, the only thing that has become clear is that the racing is tight and there is plenty of scope for a further reshuffle of the leader board before we have a regatta champion.

Find the race results here.

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