Grafham Open

The International Moths shared their penultimate open of the year at Grafham Water with the International Canoes and Vortexes on the 5th and 6th of September. The nine entrants were rewarded with great foiling conditions on both days, faultless race organisation and some enjoyable off the water socialising with the International Canoe fleet. After a little persuasion from the fleet, the RO set windward-leeward courses for the six races, three per day.

Saturday brought a stiff force 4-5, generating a short chop at the leeward mark which made the downwind to upwind transition quite tricky, particularly on the first lap when the squadron of Vortexes going upwind after their start arrived at the mark about the same time as the moths foiling downwind. The conditions brought two early casualties, Rob Campbell breaking a wingbar on his Hungry Tiger foiler and Simon Propper suffering tramps failure on his Prowler.

On the racecourse Ricky Tagg (Mach 2) and Paul Hayden (Bladerider X8) were well clear of the pack in the first two races and battled it out for first and second, Paul coming out on top in race 1 and Ricky in race 2. Third spot went to Tim Ollerenshaw (Bladerider X8) in race one, and to Ian Forsdike (Prowler) in race two.

Ricky did a horizon job in race 3, leaving Paul and Tim fighting it out for third. After several place changes Paul hit the line about a boat length in front of Tim to take second.

Day two saw slightly less wind, around force 4, but still with the odd stronger gust to catch out the unwary. Simon returned to the fray using Rob’s tramps, along with Ed Sibson sailing his first moth event on his Axeman foiler.

The racing on day two was notable for Robin Wood (former low rider Moth World Champion) showing increasing pace in his Bladerider X8 and picking up a second and a third (it surely won’t be long before he’s more consistently at the front of the fleet), and for Jonathan Peats handling the gusty conditions increasingly well in his Bladerider RX over the two days, getting a fourth in the final race. Ricky won races 4 and 5 convincingly to take out the event, and Tim finally managed to get the better of Paul to take second in race 4.

Race 5 was interesting as the wind lightened off for the only time in the weekend, leading to a lot of place changing as people had trouble getting foiling again upwind after tacking, and downwind as those who stayed in the pressure overtook those ahead who didn’t. Ricky ducked out partway through race 6 leaving Paul to take his second win (and second overall) by spotting a gust to overtake Tim (third overall) on the final downwind, with Robin pulling through into third to take fourth overall from Ian by one point.

So what did we learn from the event? Ricky in his Mach 2 was clearly faster than the rest, the most obvious difference being the amount of ride height he was running with – so much he needed oxygen after each race. Was this the main factor, or did better foil control, better rig, improved foils or superior sailing skill have a bearing? Probably a contribution from all of these factors added up to a faster package overall. The Bladeriders were all fairly closely matched, and clearly had an edge on the Prowlers upwind in the breeze. Upwind the best strategy seemed to be to minimise the number of tacks – although there were distinct pockets of pressure coming through when tacking should have paid, the loss of time spent getting foiling again meant this usually didn’t, and under-standing the windward mark was very costly. All agreed tacking was a top priority for practice over the winter. Downwind gains were made by keeping speed up so you could sail low and stick with the gusts as they came through. Boat handling generally seemed to have improved with only the occasional swim even in the breezy conditions on Saturday, mainly in the transition zone at the leeward mark. Even the Grafham late-summer weed lying in wait 15 metres off the beach didn’t cause too many problems this time.

Next up for the Moths is the final Grand Prix event of the year at Lymington Town, with a fleet that is rapidly improving in quality and depth it looks set to be a good closer to the main season.

Overall Results:

1st Ricky Tagg, 6pts

2nd Paul Hayden, 9pts

3rd Tim Ollerenshaw, 14pts

4th Robin Wood, 19pts

5th Ian Forsdike, 20pts

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