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campo di moths

campo di moths

As the Moth Worlds gets underway on Lake Garda, we take a quick look at who’s got it and who don’t in the baddest singlehanders on Earth.

The Track Garda’s ‘twin winds’ have been blowing well this month, with the morning “Peler” wind blowing down off the mountains at around 15 knots.  The Peler chills the lake down and provides decent small chop, and usually allows one race before it dies off before 11 AM.  The fleet heads in for espressos for two hours, returning to sail in the livelier “Ora” Southerly, which can reach 20 knots or more against the sheer rock face near Campione.

The one-way track keeps the fleet up against the 500-foot Western wall, sailing in 5-10 knots more breeze than out in the lake.  This means boathandling is at a premium; staying on the foils on tacks and gybes can mean a huge lead against those more inclined to splash down during maneuvers, and it takes 10-12 tacks on every beat to stay in front of the fleet.  Equally as important is the ability to anticipate what traffic is doing and make lightning-fast decisions; 120 moths compressed into a 500-foot sliver of lake, sailing upwind and down, means serious collisions are inevitable, and in fact there’s already been at least one good mashup during training, which served as a pre-Worlds.

Campione is also loaded with divers, kiteboarders, and is the de facto kiteboarding center of Garda, and over the course of training and the Italian Nationals, already a half-dozen kites have found their way around Moth rigs.  It is certainly not boring!

The Challengers With 2011 World Champ Nathan Outerridge otherwise engaged, the field is wide open.  So who’s gonna take home that massive silver cup? The easy answer is this:  Whoever can stick 95% of their foiling tacks and foiling gybes, because that is what it will take.  The guys who will stand on the podium are nearly never off their foils; wasn’t it just a few years ago that a foiling gybe was the realm of the superstar?  It really is amazing progress in the world’s coolest development class.
Here’s our pick for top 5, in no particular order:

Scott Babbage (AUS) has no shortage of moth skills, and he’s been in the class since the foils took hold.  He is the professor of preparation, and being on the lighter side of the group, has the ability to do a horizon job when Garda throws the inevitable lighter curveballs at the fleet.  Babbage did just this during pre-Worlds, rolling a 2,2,2 to win the event, and he was third in last year’s Worlds in Belmont.

Simon Payne (GBR) has won this thing before, and with a simple set-up on his sexy Abarth-branded boat, Si has more time to spend on boathandling and accident avoidance and less on tweaking lines and settings.  Also a lightweight, Simon has speed in almost all conditions, though he tends to tire out before some of the younger cats. England’s top hope in what will inevitably be an Aussie-dominated top ten.

Joe “Mothman” Turner (AUS) is the clown of the bunch, but no one’s laughing when he blows by them on the course. Turner thrives when the breeze is on, and he’s got a fully loose attitude that could do him well when the pressure gets to some of the others.  Turner was runner-up to Outerridge last year.

Rob Gough (AUS) threw his Mach 2 in the box in Tasmania to ship to Italy, but something happened in the wormhole and out came a mountain bike with a sail and foils. His boat has hydraulics, gear shifters and loads of other bells and whistles. Looks like he is going the route of easy tacking with big foils but that has a hefty tax on top end speed. But maybe he has a gadget that will overcome that – everyone is playing their tinkering a little close to the bone at the moment, but time will tell.  Gough is big and powerful in the breeze.

Bora Gulari (USA) has been a bit busy of late, skippering the Great Lakes-based TP-52 Natalie J to Mackinac wins and running an unsuccessful challenge for the Melges 24 Worlds just two weeks ago on this same lake. But he’s still the same hard-charging mothie he’s been since opening his first box of carbon tinker toy, and when the boathandling gets rough, he can lean on those thousands of hours of obsessive training to help get him through.

Some faces to watch:

  • Brad Funk:  Has enough sailing skills and speed to help a small nation
  • Josh McKnight:  The young Aussie has speed to burn when it gets windy.
  • Chris Rashley – Euro Champ and UK Nationals Champ, and the top non-Mach 2 performer on a British “Exocet” design.
  • Anthony Kotoun – First time sailing a Moth Worlds, but the US dealer for the Mach 2 has a lot of time in the boat, and multiple World Championships in other classes to give him fortitude.
  • Andrew “Amac” McDougall – the Mach 2 designer and driver behind the success of the Moth, he’s got more strings on his boat than the philharmonic.  Major speed and smarts, and one of the fittest old guys you’ll meet.
  • Rob Greenhalgh – The Volvo stud and former 18-foot and I-14 World Champ is sailing his first Moth regatta, but if anyone can get up to speed quickly, this guy is the one.

The Tech While the dominance of the Mach 2 might make you think this is a one-design event, it’s anything but, and no two moths are alike.  Here are a few things we found interesting:

Rob Gough cants his rig to leeward using hydraulics, allowing him to get his rig vertical when heeled to windward the way a moth sails upwind.

While ride-height adjusters have been necessary for a year or two, the ratio of the wand’s movement to the flap’s response requires turning a screw in the system and locking it down with a nut.  Until now, because both Rob Gough and Amac have created on-the-fly wand ratio adjusters that should allow them to get their boats to fly smoother and with less drag when conditions change; Gough’s uses a mountain bike gear shifter and Amac’s, a string-and-bobbin.

Amac has a line nicknamed the ‘god string’, because it does everything he needs to go from downwind to upwind mode with one pull.  Pull on it and the vang gets hard, the outhaul comes on, the shrouds loosen, and the rig rakes back.  Let it go at the top mark and the opposite happens.

Amac loves tinkering with the underwater bits, and he’s running new rudder horizontals that have been compared to the wings on a Klingon Bird of Prey.  They will no doubt be fast if they are dialed in properly, but that may take some time.

This being one of the true tinkerers’ classes there are bound to be a pile of new toys, and we’ll have more when the week is over.