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Sportboat Classics Return to Race in San Diego

The Ultimate 20 class, after a three-year hiatus return to the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta San Diego.

Ultimate 20 stalwart Mark Allen competes in the North Sails Rally Race. Paul Todd/Outside Images

The 2022 edition of the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta San Diego marks the return of the Jim Antrim-designed Ultimate 20s, claimed by its creators to be “the original sportboat.” These lightweight, inexpensive, sporty and trailerable keelboats ushered in a new era of downwind sailing in the late 1990s and this weekend five teams will sail for the Ultimate 20 Pacific Coast Championship.

The U20’s simplistic layout and handling makes it an amateur-friendly race boat, and while there are now hundreds of them scattered across the country (and internationally) only a few remain permanently berthed in the San Diego zip code. For the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta San Diego, all but one of five entries will be trailering in from out of town, and among the visiting teams is perennial class champion Mark Allen, of San Francisco, who says San Diego has become his favorite racing destination.

Ultimate 20s racing in 2016 on the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta’s South Bay course. Paul Todd/Outside Images

Over many years of competing in the earlier editions of the regatta series, Allen and a dedicated posse of Ultimate 20 teams from Utah and points east trailered their boats across the desert and over the Sierras to test their skills in San Diego’s friendly and reliable ocean winds. Allen now resides and works in the northern half of the state—for Anchor Brewing (the regatta series’ official beer sponsor)—and will, for the first time ever, motor a different route with his boat in tow. And this time, He will also be coming in fresh from a lucrative year of racing his Ultimate 20 on San Francisco Bay.

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“Normally, I’d be digging the boat out of a few feet of snow to get to this regatta,” Allen says, “but as of March, I’ve already got in a lot of great sailing, so I’ll be a bit more polished than I have been in the past.”

Allen will be joined by four other Ultimate 20 teams, one from Monterey Bay, one from Richmond, California, and one from Utah, all hosted by local host Bill Mendel who recently relocated from the windy plains of Kansas with his U20 in tow. “Travis [Gregory, from Farmington, Utah], has been the ringleader and has really taken up the mantle to get people to San Diego,” Allen says. “He’s really the one who has been pushing to get everyone here.”

For the San Diego regatta, Allen will also be reunited with his “old crew” of nine years running—they’re flying in from Colorado. The last event they sailed together was the Ultimate 20 Pacific Coast Championship, so they will come with the promise of a good result and Allen’s midsize pickup laden with IPAs and Pilsner.

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“I’ll have plenty of beer,” Allen says, “So if anyone is thirsty and looking for it after racing, come find me in the parking lot [at Coronado].”

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