October is a funny month. You sit there pondering what to do. Often wondering about the weather…Will it keep raining or will it just get cold? Do I prefer sailing in the rain or the cold? You’re probably also wondering about kit…Should I get a new sail for next year? Should I get that new foil that has come out or should I save myself the money and focus on practicing on my boat handling? You all know, as do I, that it should be boat handling. We all know that the biggest improvement will come from flawless gybes and sharp tacks. These will only come from the honing of technique that comes from practice, practice, practice. However, we all know you’ll wimp out and go for one or both of the new kit options. Besides, if you don’t get the new kit and you don’t get better you’ll just blame the lack of improvement on a lack of new kit anyway. Besides, the winter is coming right? No one sails much during the winter! December is about going out and January is about saving money and going tee-total. Then going on the pi$$ so hard that you undo all of the tee-total effort in style. Then maybe going skiing, but not sailing, or so you thought.
The only real question that everyone SHOULD be asking themselves is how to ensure that they are going to make it to every one of the events that make up the moth Winter Championships. All six of them.
You should be lining up the credits now so that you can go sailing At these brilliant events all through the winter. Think about it..These are the events for which you sail a moth. These are the events where the true, deeply held within, inner core reasons for sailing moth are satiated. That’s right, looking cool in front of other people sailing the kind of boats you wouldn’t even consider getting in anymore. Boats that wake you up in the middle of the night screaming in terror like… Well you know which they are. Even boats like the ones you probably used to sail such as Where now you think “meh” This is the chance for you to really rub it in and enjoy it, especially pursuit races. You can turn up last and have people scoff at you as you wheel your boat to the slipway long after everyone else has launched. Then stand around having a coffee and some lunch whilst watching sailors in well known “water pushers” strain at the eyeballs to gain an extra 0.002 knots on their first lap. After getting changed you politely decline offers of help as you nonchalantly sling your 30kg steed of perfectly formed carbon wonder on to your shoulders and, for no reason at all, carry the boat the last hundred yards to the water in front of a group of mystified youth squad parents – it’s the only thing that will prise their eyes from their little darlings’ performance. After a brief swim where you apparently don’t notice that it’s a tad cold, you neatly pop the boat on the foils and disappear off to the start line at 20 knots whilst peering at the rudder to check your trim, as long as you’re not Jason anyway. With time to burn you arrive at the committee boat and, by now, couldn’t care less where you come because the crew of a (choose your class) has just said “wow” out loud as you foiled past…and that never gets old
In looking for inspiration of something to say about the Moth Winter Champs I did some searching based on the number 6, there are 6 events after all with 3 to count. The internet was not its usual helpful self. All it could come up with was that 6 is the number which naturally follows 5 and comes before 7. Well pooh the bed Wikipedia, you have excelled yourself this time.
So, 6 does naturally come after 5 does it? Well, there is something that relates to 5 that is totally relevant. If you follow cycling, i.e. take an interest in something more than the TdF and Bradley Wiggins’ awful attempts at a biography, you’ll know about the Monuments, the 5 mega one day races in cycling. Cycling, as a sport, is something for slightly deranged people. People who like to push themselves, people who like to find where the pain is and then push themselves WELL beyond the pain. People who don’t mind careering around in a mass group of likeminded nutters without any care for themselves, or anything else for that matter, other than the intention of winning races and ignoring the pain needed to do so. The Monuments are the epitome of this, the races for the Hard Men of cycling. The Cycling Monuments are 1 day races where the organisers find the dumbest places on earth to ride a bike, wait for the conditions to turn to total crud, and then…wait for it…run a cycling race! The Queen of these is called Paris-Roubaix. It’s also more accurately and more commonly called the “Hell of the North”. Imagine the best part of two hundred cyclists tearing along at 30 mph, in the rain, over mud covered cobbles with slick tyres. That’s right; they go down like Bambi on Ice. Then they get right back up and dive right back on the bike and try to catch up. I guess they don’t feel the pain though, as for most of these races it’s near to, and often below, freezing. If you don’t know what this carnage looks like you actually got a glimpse of it in the Tour de France this year when they rode several of the cobbled sections on stage 4. It rained and it was awful. There were loads of crashes including Chris Froome who didn’t even make it to the cobbled bits as the weather was so bad. At the end Geraint Thomas, a man so hard he rode 20 of the 21 stages in the 2013 Tour with a broken pelvis, was asked how it was. His response was clear and simple: “I loved it“.
To be fair, you might be wondering how comparable or relevant that is to the Moth Winter Championships. It is totally comparable and completely relevant. After the first day of the Dachet Flyer last year I was exhausted from the 3 races in 20 knots and merrily stuffing my face with as much food as I could find. Simon Hiscocks came over with a plate of food too. His description of the day was “that it was like stealing a fast car and joyriding it away from the police in rush hour”. Whilst I’ve never done that myself it certainly felt like it. I loved it.
I’ve done the Bloody Mary a couple of times in the moth and I put a few words together about it last year so you might have seen that. The only thing to add is that pursuit races are a bit different in a Moth to everything else. You don’t have the 2 hour plus slog that the slow boats have and you don’t have the turd-fight through the fleet that the other boats have. It’s a bit like the Guinness Surfer ad. You wait, and you wait, and you wait. Then BANG…20 of you are sent charging off going four to five times faster than everyone else avoiding the obstacles that strive to ruin your day. It is mental, as there are so many boats but after a couple of legs you realise that you just speed over, under and around them and before you know it you don’t even notice they’re there. Even when a random 420 tacks right in front of you presenting you with a choice of crash tack or, well just plain crash, you pick yourself up and dive back on the bike, I mean boat, like nothing happened and try to catch up. I have been thinking we could do something about that. Motorbikes have come up with the “Think Bike” campaign. Well, if you’re reading this and you don’t sail a Moth, please do be a considerate “waterpusher”, and when you’re at one of the winter handicap events, “Think Moth”. Although rest assured, you’re more scared than us. Except maybe Patrick Cunningham, he’ll have soiled himself well before you. Needless to say though, after doing the BM last year I only had one thought, I loved it.
The other key parts of the Moth winter series are the Draycote Dash, Steve Nicholson Memorial Trophy and the Hayling Perisher, as well as my favourite, the Tiger Trophy. That event is the Queen of the winter events for me. Sailing a moth on a glass flat large expanse of water like Rutland is just peachy. I did it one year in my old Velociraptor Design and I spent the first day chasing Ricky and Olivier around in 12 knots and just a smidge of wind chill. Its simple maths: 0 degrees, 12 knots of wind and 13 knots of boat speed means that it’s not warm going upwind. Better yet, if you sail for long enough without getting the hull wet the tramps will freeze and that certainly adds a little spice just when you might be more concerned about tacking for the finish. Amusingly, during each lap I noticed the ice building up on the shrouds. It actually looks quite pretty and helps you forget the effort you’re putting in to hike 8sqm of sail down in an apparent force 6. Then you notice the control lines are freezing solid and you can’t adjust them. At one point I’d swear my wand froze, Ricky said his did too. By the time we finished I couldn’t feel anything below the knee but, as usual, I cruised past everyone on the way back to the club and had time to take my rig down, get a coffee and still be first in the shower. I knew one thing for certain, I loved it.
The question is, do you? If you’re not sure, feel free to help yourself to a nice warm glass of “toughen up juice” or the full fat version “MTFU” and get your backside along to the events. Start with Draycote and I guarantee you’ll want to do more.
Neil “boatless” Baker