by Neil Backer
We left this conversation yesterday at the critical point. It’s the usual conversation that the arm chair pundits like to start talking about in the run up to a big sailing event. The moth world championships is arguably THE event in sailing this year because it has more gold medallists competing than any other sailing event. Well, it’s definitely enough to rival the Amercias Cup I think. The quality of racing will be a lot better to watch anyway, ok ,maybe that’s just me. On that, if anyone can explain to me how Oracle went from the best boat in the fleet to about as competitive as the beginner teams between the round robin and the Cup Match I’d really like to know?
Back on topic, if anyone can name an event with the quality of fleet to match this then I’d like to see it. There really is a depth of talent here that is eye watering. In fact it’s enough to make you cry if you spend the majority of your week trying to do an honest days work flogging lubricant to the over 50s. The majority of Dinghy sailors never get to race against the best in the world. A few occasionally get to race against an Olympian, the odd one of us gets to race against a medallist. At the moth worlds in 2017 you’ll be banging on the toilet door just before launch o’clock, complaining at the wait, with a good chance that it’s someone you’d normally go a bit weak at the knees about if they sailed within 200 metres of you at the round the island race.
So who is going to win?
First to go is the current holder of the world championship title, the UK. In fact that very World Champion is Paul Goodison who is turning up fresh from the AC and, knowing nothing about how much time he’s had to sail, he’s definitely got a good chance, he is pure quality. Another strong UK sailor will always be Rob Greenhalgh; usually well prepared and driving some primo, slightly experimental kit, you’d be a fool to bet against him. However, time in the boat is also a challenge for him of late. Well that’s what he’ll tell you anyway.
Sadly the current UK champ, Dylan Fletcher, is not available. As member of the GB Olympic squad he’s being marched off to Kiel to continue the relentless Olympic cycle. Far be it for people to have a break in the first year of the cycle. It’s a real shame as Dylan was unbelievably fast at the UK nationals. Still, his Solid State Rocket, not to be confused with a skate park for mice, is coming and will be sailed by none other than former Euro champ Cookie himself. Now we’ll find out if it’s the boat or the sailor eh Cookie? No pressure. There are plenty of other strong UK contenders but it’s unlikely they’ll fight for the title. Ben Paton has already reserved 4th place and Rashley has moved on to some kind of sunsail holiday, or is it Nacra sailing, it all looks the same.
From the Australian contingent we’ve got a huge bevvy of talent coming, including former Moth world champions Josh McKnight and Nathan Outteridge , Americas cup sailors like Tom Slingsby and Iain Jensen and of course long time Worlds contenders like Scott Babbage and Rob Gough. Whilst many of them have been heavily involved in the AC, or several other types of boat, they’ve all got some great kit and will no doubt be loving the idea of getting stuck into racing at Garda. Rumour is a few of the AC sailors went straight from the Cup to Malcesine to get practicing. Commitment like that shows why they are so much better than the rest of us. I’d have been happy to just get away from boats for good I expect.
We also have the other Moth powerhouse nation of America. The main man from their fleet is Bora Gulari, double world champ. This is the point where people always say the kind of pointless and irrelevant line about how he hasn’t won outside of the USA because it makes you sound like you’re talking about a real sport like Football (the one where you can’t pick the ball up and more than one country plays it) or Rugby. If he’s on it, he’s near unstoppable. Rumours are that he really is on it, he’s had loads of time on the water in a brand new Exocet that has all the trimmings. He will be tough to beat.
Other notable contenders from the states are always Anthony Kotoun and Brand Funk. Both very fast moth sailors who consistently push well into the top ten. Maybe not worth a bet for the win but possible for a spray and pay at long odds.
There is of course another recent world champ who’s not from any of those countries. Yes New Zealand, shock as it is to many, is actually its own country and not a part of Australia….And MY GOD do they love sailing again. I can’t think why. Whether they send anyone over to win this event too, we’ll have to wait and see. There are a good few entered but not any who we’d instantly put at the top of the contender list. There have been some suggestions, theories, rumours, that a certain Kiwi, lets call him P Burling, wait that’s too obvious, Peter B, is contemplating a late entry just to stick his hat in the ring. The guy can clearly sail, but one wouldn’t blame him if he had a small hangover after every single living kiwi queued up to buy him a pint of Steinlager over the month of July. Mind you that’s still only about 25 pints in total so maybe he will be looking fast come Monday morning.
As for the other countries: Well, it would be a first if the title went away from one of the 4 countries above. Not an actual first but the first time in a long while, certainly since foiling took over and in fact a long time before that too. There are a number of strong fleets across Europe now and of course our Italian hosts would love to see a home win. Carlo de Paoli looked very good at the UK nationals earlier this year and I’m sure he could put in a good show on his home lake but a win might be a touch too far. It could still be a best result for the Italians in recent years. The Ferrighi bros (which in no way sounds like a pizza take away in Manhattan) can certainly show a turn of speed but an unnamed source has mentioned their ability to let Italian passion flare up. I’ll leave it there so I don’t end up with a horses head in my apartment when I arrive.
The Swiss have always been strong, the French and German fleets continue to get bigger and bigger and they are all sending big contingents to race this year. It’s graet to see those fleets expanding but I couldn’t name a potential winner out of them. Judging by the amount of people from Sweden who keep trying to buy my boat for much less than it is worth they are also building some strong numbers, or at least enthusiasm for the boat. Poland, Denmark and the low countries always have a good few contenders too now.
We’ve also got fleets in Japan and Argentina coming to race, good effort! There could be a few dark horses there. The Irish fleet gets bigger each year with their own builder now, the Austrians are sending a good few, you’d hope so though as it’s about 2 hours drive and most of us in London do that every Saturday, some better than others. There’s even a few Portuguese coming. Consider that it’s probably going to take them longer to drive there than it will take the Japanese to fly, you’ve got to admire that.
All in all it’s going to be an exceptional sailing event. The majority of us going are just hoping to put together the kind of event that we can be proud of. If we get a good result in one race we’ll be set for years. I’m still getting warm fuzzy feelings from leading a race at the Euros a few years ago. I probably shouldn’t admit that but it’s true. Manage that at the worlds and it’ll be like getting a hole in one. Drop the clubs, take the glove off and never play again. My mates will never hear the end of it. In fact, I’d say I’ll be pretty much unbearable if I just get round the first mark in the top 10 once all week!
I joke but I know most of you are the same. It’s probably all down to some feeble pride thing, or maybe some insecurity that means we keep trying to pretend that we could have made it if we’d taken a different path. We should be able to ignore it but we can’t. We need it. That moment in 6 months time, maybe 6 years, when you can reflect back to some race where you were mixing it with the finest in the world, racing your nuts off and feeling like a hero. I can’t chuffing wait.
Now I’d best get in the car and go. See you there.