As a six-year-old, Seisia Mair cruised the Pacific on her parents’ yacht and today, now aged 13, she will be the youngest skipper in the SB20 World Championship on Hobart’s River Derwent.

In the years between the cruise and the Worlds, Seisa has raced single-handed Sabot dinghies. Last Friday was the first time she had set foot on an SB20, a high-performance one-design sports boat, let alone steered one.

“It was quite an experience steering one of these boats for the first time….it’s going to be a huge challenge racing against such outstanding sailors from around the world, “ Seisia said today. “I think we handled the boat, Persian Princess, quite well in our first sail.” Seisia is a member Lake Cootharaba Sailing Club on a large saltwater lake on the Queensland Sunshine Coast. Last week she sailed her Sabot to sixth place overall in the National Championship in Brisbane.

Seisia’s crew for the SB20 Worlds will be her brother Darcy Mair (15) and two 18-year-olds Mara Stransky-Smith and Indiabeau Laborie. Her father Duncan bought Persian Princess in Hobart before the worlds and plans to take the yacht back to Lake Cootharaba where he hopes to develop an SB20 fleet. Seisia Mair is the youngest skipper in the worlds but not the youngest sailor; Hugo Allison (12) from Hobart is in the crew of the Victorian boat Ikon20, skippered by Kirwan Robb, while Launceston lad Bailey Fisher (14) is on aboard Paul Burnell’s Honey Badger. There are many other teenagers in crews.

Seven crews have entered as Youth teams, one from Ireland, three from France, including Pre-Worlds winner Robin Follin, and three Australian crews. Today several Youth team skippers, Hugo Feydit (FRA), Seisia Mair (AUS) and Cillian Dickson (IRE) plus 17-year-old Sam King (AUS), who has not entered the Youth division, gathered at the Derwent Sailing Squadron to meet the media.

Hugo (24) is the skipper of EOLIFT Racing, one of the French Youth teams contesting the Worlds. He finished sixth in the Pre-Worlds.

Hugo comes from Royan, a seaside resort town on France’s Atlantic coast and has raced in 420, 470s and now an SB20 from the Club Nautique La Tremblade. Cillian (25) sails from the Howth Yacht Club near Dublin and has one of the oldest SB20s in the fleet which he bought a year ago and named Binn Eadair. He previously raced with a youth crew in a J24.

Cillian and his crew of Sam O’Byrne, Gordon Stirling and Diana Kissane finished 25th overall and third in the Youth division of the Pre-Worlds. The highlight of the series was crossing the finish line first in the final race, only to find they had been disqualified under the UFD rule for breaking the start.

Sam King is a 17-year-old student at Hobart’s Hutchins School and has been racing on his father’s SB20 Masterpiece “on and off” for the past four years. Sam sails from the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, winning an Australian championship in Sabots, followed by considerable success in Laser 4.7s and Radials. Last week he finished fifth in the Australian and Oceania Open Laser Championships in Queensland. He won the Youth division of the SB20 Australian Championship sailed on the Derwent in early December. He has entered the Worlds in the Open and Corinthian divisions with his father Roger King and Josh Ragg as crew.

There are also six Women crews, including Youth sailors Seisia Mair and Issi Declerk, along with Felicity Allison, Clare Dabner, Clare Brown and Colleen Darcy.  Felicity Allison, skipper of Cook Your Own Dinner, has two sons, Jack and Hugo, competing aboard rival boats, Jack helming the Hutchins School entry, Warwick Dean, and Hugo crewing on the Victorian boat Ikon20.

A fleet of 59 has entered the SB20 Worlds 2018, conducted jointly by the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania and the Derwent Sailing Squadron.

Words: Peter Campbell
Photos: Jane Austin
1530AEST/6 January 2018

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