3 times Laser World Champion, Glenn Bourke, gives us a few details on the Laser SB20 Worlds in Australia
Meeting with Glenn Bourke it’s not an easy task, he’s not unfriendly, on the contrary, he was happy to talk to us, and it’s not even the ten hours time difference the obstacle…he is just so busy with his ‘new’ job. After winning four Laser World Title, followed the Olympic dream and the America’s Cup, after being the Volvo Ocean Race CEO, Glenn Bourke today is the General Manager of the moost important Australian Resort at Hamilton Island. A new challenge that keeps him away from the racing world, unless regattas go straight to his door…
The Zhik Laser SB3 World Championship in UK has just ended, how did it go for you? Well, we didn’t have much preparation, just two small regattas in the last year as I have been very busy with work. But I must say in the end I was very happy with 4th. We sailed very well upwind but didn’t have good technique downwind and lost places which basically stopped us from getting on the podium.
Was it your first one? It was my first World Championship in the class, but we won the Europeans in Garda about 5 years ago and have won Cowes Week and the British Nationals twice, so we have done many regattas in the past. When I left England three years ago for Australia, there weren’t any SB3’s there so I basically stopped sailing and concentrated on my job which was running Australia’s largest Holiday Resort – Hamilton Island.
How do you like the boat? I love the boat, it has everything I want from a boat, it is good from 5 knots to 25 knots it performs well upwind and downwind it just flies. It is a good tactical class and because it is one design it has close racing which I like. A three or 4 four person crew is ideal, not too many to make it logistically hard or expensive but enough to sail at a high level with good crew work.
What’s the boat best asset? That it is one design, but also that it is simple and relatively light and not too expensive and is a good transition for guys who really like sailing dinghy’s but are getting too old. Personally I like the asymmetric spinnaker with the pole straight out in front and the jib over the top. I also like the wind up keel to make trailering the boat behind a car easy.
And what could be better? That they start sailing them in the USA and other countries. They are a fantastic boat, but America hasn’t discovered them yet. It will happen over time I believe.
At Torquay, did you give a glance at what they were doing and how they were running things in good ol’England, before the Aussie adventure? How do you intend to manage the Worlds in Hamilton Island? Yes I observed how they ran things in Torbay and I must say they did a good job. Especially considering it was mostly volunteers that were coordinating things. Here on Hamilton Island we have professional paid staff who look after all the events we do. Sometimes weddings for celebrities for 200 people, conferences for 800 people or productions of the Australian Ballet which need perfect coordination. We also recently organized the World 505 championships, for 90 crews which went well. Biut when company owns the island and has a staff of over 1000 people, we can do a lot of things and do them well. So I expect us to put on a good show for the 2012 Laser SB3 Worlds and it will be a once in a lifetime trip for most of the competitors coming. We have the Great Barrier Reef, which everyone must see just once in their life, we have beaches and warming sunshine and good food and a great marina. We also run the Audi Hamilton Island race Week every year in August for about 200 yachts from Superyachts to Laser SB3’s, so we have plenty of experience.
How many boats are expected at the Whitsundays? We hope to get 80 boats at least with about 50 or so coming from Australia. How will you manage crew’s accommodation and services for all those teams? I hear you have special packages for crew that want to spend some time on the Island after the races, what about it? We have a huge range of accommodation available from free standing houses, to luxury hotel rooms. Here is the accommodation web page if you are interested: http:// www.hamiltonisland.com.au/sb3-worlds-2012/
You have been involved in the management of different big sailing projects, what’s different – if that is – about the Laser SB3 Worlds? What’s the plan so far? As you know I used to be the CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race, which was a big budget multi venue international race. We did our own TV production and web site and negotiated with venues all over the world to host us. It was very complex and took all of the three years in between races to organise properly. The Laser SB3 Worlds is a lot more simple for us as it’s just one venue and we have all the infrastructure already built. We have the marina and a very new Yacht Club and we have events teams and food and beverage and hotels, All they have to do extra is to get the boats here in an economical way for the competitors and Rod Jones has done a great job organising this from Europe. We also asked the Government to help us with shipping costs for teams, which they have done, with a large financial commitment. All we have to do now is get the very best Race Management Team we can and we will be asking the guys who normally run the Audi Hamilton Island race Week, who do lots of big and small boat regattas around Australia.
And do you have a social events schedule as well? Yes we have a full social schedule, with a pre event Welcome Party, some casual parties in the middle of the regatta and a big Pirze Giving party at the end of the event. We hope people also go to see the Great Barrier Reef when they are here as it is one of the true natural Wonders of the World. Hamilton Island is one of the most beautiful holiday location in the world, and how about sailing?
Can this be one of many international sailing events to come? What will conditions be like in that time of the year? We have already as I mentioned run many international events over the years and yes we hope to become even more famous for sailing racing in the future. Bob Oatley who owns the island is a racing sailor and he has a 100ft maxi called Wild Oats which has won the Sydney Hobart race 4 times, so we know and love racing.
You’ve been sailing at top levels on different boats, from dinghies to America’s Cup, can give us an opinion on the slow time the sailing business is going through, and how would you explain the 100+ boats racing in Torquay. In my opinion it is the class that people like, simple, one-design, not expensive, fun, fast, light, easy to tow, close racing. In my opinion the Laser SB3 should be the next big class in sailing and overtake the Etchells in the US and Australia, which it has already done in Europe.
I would like to conclude this interview with your opinion on the Italian fleet. Have you noticed any difference between now and the European Championship you saw in Riva del Garda a few years ago..? Do you think it’s improved? How were their performances in UK? There is no doubt in my mind that the Italian fleet has improved massively since the Euro’s in Garda. And it seems to be growing in strength very quickly. I have noticed that some of the Italian boats at the front of the fleet in the last worlds in Torbay, were sailing quite differently to how the English have been sailing the SB3’s and at times they were much faster than the way we have been sailing. The thing that happens in One-design racing is that competition leads to development and the Italian fleet appears to be breeding a new type of sailing for the class. I think that in the future the English will need to keep a close eye on how the Italians are set up the boats or they might get left behind. The English have been dominant for many years now, but these things change over time. I will certainly be watching the Italians with great interest so I don’t get left behind.
Don’t know if you know, but the Italian fleet is getting bigger and more competitive, they race on a summer Circuit and in mid October the National Champs, they’d love you to join them sometimes… Is it possible? Sure we would love to come over in late summer and race in good fleets. We want to prepare properly for the worlds in Hamilton Island and doing regattas with good fleets is part of that program. So yes, all you have to do is invite us and we will certainly try to come.
Interview by Rachale Vitello, Laser SB3 Class, Italy