The International Moth UK Grand Prix series, sponsored by Noble Marine, runs from Nationals to Nationals, with 9 events scheduled for the series and competitors counting their best 5 results. The points are calculated based upon the number of boats at each event so there is a premium on doing well at the larger events.
It has been an exciting series to date, with nearly 80 different sailors competing at events in the series. This UK series has showcased all that is great about the class with close exciting racing pitting the non-professional “weekend warriors” against the highly talented UK Olympic and America’s Cup and other Professional sailors.
The series reflects UK weather with events having ballistic conditions (Draycote) to very light and marginal conditions (Weymouth and Portland) so giving everyone an opportunity to shine.
Coming into the final 2 events, the weekend warriors were hanging in with Ricky Tagg leading and Tom “Special” Offer in 3rd. Ricky was going to use every bit of experience in his many grey hairs to fend off the Pros – he was definitely hanging on by his fingernails.
The Professionals in the form of Ben “show us your guns” Paton and Chris Rashley were ominously placed in 2nd and 4th and had gave of that air of the young, confident and invincible. Rob Greenhalgh, a seasoned and quick Pro, was sandwiched in 5th between James Phare in his new Rocket and Phil Oligario showing great consistency in his home built boat.
Rob and Jason Belben were going to need a great result at their home club, Stokes Bay and a good fleet and result at Stone is if they were to overcome their fellow professionals.
Surely it was not going to be lambs to the slaughter? It was set to be a great end to the series with everything to play for as many others had the potential for last minute leaps up the leader board as they increased their counting results and even discard poorer event scores.
Work commitments for Simon Hiscocks, Chris Draper and Paul Goodison reduced the number of Professionals at Stokes; potentially opening the door for the Weekend Warriors but the forecast looked ominous. Light winds seemed to be on the cards but with bright sunshine also forecast, the fleet were optimistic that some form of thermal breeze would make an appearance.
With a much reduced race count, the Pros stamped their authority on the event with Mike Lennon leading the charge followed closely by Rob Greenhalgh and Chris Rashley. Family commitments (wedding) put paid to Tom Offer and with Ricky having a splash in one race he put paid to any chances of upsetting the Pros weekend and finished 7th and first non-Professional.
Unfortunately a combination of poor forecast and people having eyes on the Worlds in Hayling, meant that the last event in Stone did not happen which is a shame. This meant that Mike Lennon, Robert Greenhalgh and Jason Belben could not now make the podium, as they needed an extra result to really claw back.
After the events were fed in to the system, the Pros had it. Chris Rashley stormed up the leader board to take the GP Series with a series of great results in 2013 and he continued this in a highly competitive fleet in 2014. His practice and testing were evident to all a few weeks later as he narrowly missed winning the Worlds finishing in 2nd place but taking the European Championships for the 4th time.
Ricky Tagg held on to second for the Weekend Warriors from a charging Ben Paton, who was rueing a couple of weaker performances by his standards earlier in the series. Tom’s family commitments saw him over hauled by both Ben and Rob but it was obvious he was going to be the leading light for the Warriors at the Worlds and so it turned out to be with a great finish of 8th overall at the Worlds – the only non-Professional in the top 15.
Special mention must go to Phil Oligario who built his own boat and demonstrates that you can compete without purchasing a new boat and has inspired many more to join the “Home Builders” camp. The Moth Class is respected and renowned for people experimenting and trying new ideas and equipment and leaders amongst this are the Home Builders. A new trophy was commissioned this year and presented at the Worlds to recognise and celebrate these people. This turned out to be a hard fought battle at the Worlds with excellent examples of innovation, attention to detail and high quality build and finish and was won by Richard Edwards in his recently launched boat.
This series highlights what a great place the Moth Class is at currently with nearly 80 different boats competing in the series at tremendous venues around the country. There can be few other classes that can provide such tight and exciting racing all the way through the fleet and offers the opportunity for the Weekend Warriors to mix it and compete with some of the best professional sailors in the country.
We will shortly start the 2014/15 GP series at Torbay Week over the Bank Holiday (Aug 23-25) followed by the Inland Championships at Grafham Water (Sep 27/28) and the last for 2014 at Draycote (Oct 11/12). The series will then continue in March 2015 with up to 5 more events before the Nationals in July 2015.
Maybe, just maybe, the Weekend Warriors will strike back
Our thanks go to Noble Marine for their continued support of the class and as title sponsor of this great series. Magic Marine is the Clothing Partner for the UK Moth Class and our thanks to them for their support and for providing a great range of prizes. We look forward to continuing this for the next series.