2010 is a special year of celebration for the International 420 Class. The boat was launched 50 years ago this year!
The 420 was designed by Christian Maury, in response to a specification drawn up by Aristide Lehoerrff and Pierre Latxague, chief sailing instructors at the Socoa sailing school at Saint Jean de Luz - Ciboure in south west France. It aimed to meet a need for a performance sail training boat.
The 420 was developed through a collaboration between Maury and the French industrialist, Lucien Lanaverre, a former cooper for the Bordeaux wine industry, who had converted to the then new process of GRP polyester moulding. Lanaverre, therefore, became the first builder of the 420, a strict One Design racing dinghy.
Originally designed for advanced sailors looking to improve their sailing and racing skills, it was soon realized that this boat catered well to a wide variety of crew weights and abilities. The Class developed rapidly in France, being adopted nationally as the youth trainer for the Olympic class International 470, which was launched in 1964.
The 420 became increasingly popular world-wide. It was, and still is, much used in many countries for school and college competitive sailing, both fleet and team racing, as well as being the boat used for national youth race training around the world. Its International status was recognised by the International Yacht Racing Union, the predecessor body to ISAF. The 420 was the equipment of choice at the very first ISAF Youth World Championships, held at Angelholm, Sweden in 1971 and has been at most since, again this year in Istanbul.
The International 420 consistently produces competitive sailors for the future. Most of the Olympic sailors in the 470 and many in the 49er are former 420 sailors, as are many of the Women's Match Racers. The Class prepares sailors for fleet racing in many classes, for team and match racing and for keel boating and ocean racing, as well as University sailing.
Uniqua-France, the French 420 National Class Association, sent us their New Year greetings on 1 January. They are making special plans to mark the 50th anniversary at their National Championships, the Coupe Nationale in Brest from 10 to 16 July. This is one of the large-fleet events used by international teams in preparation for the World and Junior European Championships each year. Uniqua France will be marking this special year with a "Raid" event as part of the programme, in addition to the Challenge Maguet team racing and the Championship itself.
Christian Berhault, President of Uniqua-Franc, spoke of the great impact that the 420 had made to the development of sailing in France, being popular with all ages and very widely used today. But "its contribution to developing racing young people's skills in has been a World contribution of which we are very proud. We very much look forward to celebrating this anniversary with all 420 sailors past, present and future at our National Championships in Brest and then at the Junior European Championships in La Rochelle in August. Bon vent aux 420!"
The International Class Association will be having a particular celebration at the World Championships in Haifa from 22 to 31 July.
And this year's Junior European Championships will, appropriately, be held at La Rochelle from 12 to 20 August. This will again be a joint Junior Europeans with our 'young cousin', the International 470. It is very much in keeping that the latest youth racers will competing at the same venue as many of our "graduates" in the 470. And this will be on the West Coast of France, the 420's birth place fifty years ago!
Class President, Nino Shmueli, commented:
"It is a credit to the original designer and to those committed to developing young people's racing skills at a high level that the 420 remains at the forefront of youth development worldwide."
"With our initiatives over recent years, we now have forty-two nations in full membership of the Class and had over 200 sailors at the 2009 World Championships on Garda. With new 420 classes in Bulgaria, Columbia, Denmark, Ecuador, US Vir¬gin Islands, Korea, Mexico, Peru and Puerto Rico in the last two years and increased levels of competition in Asia, South Africa, North and South America, we look forward to another decade of development. With our commitment to spreading availability and raising standards of coaching. we will be concentrating our further support particularly in Africa, Asia, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and South America."
"Meanwhile, we will celebrate 2010 with the World Championships in Haifa, the Junior Euros with the 470 in La Rochelle, and, at the end of the year, the 2011 World Championships in Buenos Aires. Another busy 420 year! We look forward to reporting at the ISAF Annual Meeting at Athens in November"