The International Moth UK Grand Prix series, sponsored by Noble Marine, runs from Nationals to Nationals. There are 9 events in the series with competitors counting their best 5 results. With points calculated based upon the number of boats at each event there is a premium on doing well at the larger events.
To date over 70 different sailors have attended the events and with larger fleet numbers expected at the events in the lead up to the Worlds, this number is set to grow even more. The Moth class seems to be bucking the trend of reducing numbers, with attendance increasing at Open meetings and Nationals, year on year. This is largely down to the fun and excitement you get from simply sailing the boat and when combined with the knowledge that there will be exciting racing wherever you are in the fleet it makes each GP event a “must do”.
The UK is hosting the 2014 Worlds and with 117 boats already entered and a number of key contenders yet to enter it will be the largest Moth World Championships. This event is attracting a number of UK Olympic and America’s Cup sailors as well as talented non-professional “weekend warriors” from both the UK and overseas.
One of the side effects of the moth being so much fun to sail is that Mothies carry on sailing right through the winter. Large fleets have been training across the country. The well-known foiling moth clubs like Stokes Bay, Queen Mary, Weymouth and Hayling Island have gone from strength to strength over the last couple of years but fleets are now in other areas with the Draycote and Grafham fleets growing fast and Thorpe Bay has quickly become a strong Moth sailing club.
With these groups putting in practice time over the cold winter months, the Grand Prix series events is giving a good indication as to how people are shaping up for the Worlds. The early events of 2014 at Queen Mary, Parkstone and Weymouth gave an array of conditions, from light and shifty to solid steady breezes.
In the “Professional” and “Semi Professional” camp, the finely tuned racing skills of America’s Cup and Olympic sailors, Rob Greenhalgh, Simon Hiscocks, Chris Draper, Paul Goodison and were brought to bear and they showed that their winter training is putting them in good shape for the Worlds. All three are proving that the regular upgrades available for the now “old” design of the Mach 2 mean it is still 100% able to compete with the newest British made Exocet and Rocket Designs. However, for Chris and Paul, their other commitments make it unlikely that they will complete enough events to make the podium.
Of the other professionals/semi professionals, all sailing the Exocet Moths, Chris Rashley is right in the mix, having dominated the 2013 GP events and as the winner of last year’s GP Series he will not want to relinquish this title. With his home event coming up at Stokes Bay he has an “event in hand” and could jump to the top of the leader board and put good separation over his rivals. Similarly, Ben Paton is displaying his inimitable bullish style and a desire to be “top dog” in the UK after an impressive performance at the 2013 Worlds. Good performances at Stokes Bay and Stone will give him the opportunity to discard poorer scores and so snatch the title from Chris.
The “weekend warriors” are also in the mix for the title. Ricky Tagg has a full score card and has called on his extensive grey hairs to produce results to just top the leader board and since his change in boat and sail design he may still have a trick or two up his sleeve. He too has some weaker scores but will age tell when the going gets tough against the “young guns”? – probably!
Tom “Special” Offer is a bit of a conundrum from a category perspective. Allegedly he runs his recruitment company so would appear to be a “weekend warrior” but he seems to be able to spend as much if not more time on the water than the “Pros”! Tom put in a great display to take the Queen Mary event but with an uncharacteristically poor performance at Weymouth, he too has the opportunity to discard poorer scores and potentially take the crown.
Jason Belben can never be written out of the script and has proved time and again that with the right tunes on his MP3 player he can take out events. If he is to win he will need to do both of the last events, the first at his home club of Stokes Bay and then travel to Stone.
James Phare in his Rocket is the first non-Maguire built Exocet in the GP Series in 5th but will need to master the “lumpy stuff” at Stokes and Stone to improve his scores. Based on his ability to perform a perfect “upwind pitch pole” at Queen Mary over the winter this could be easier said than done.
Other “Rocketeers” such as Andrew Friend, Doug Pybus and Richard Westbury are all long time Moth class stalwarts. They have all spent much time over the winter tuning in their new boats and aim to be competitive in time for the worlds but are unlikely to make much impact on the Grand Prix Series at this stage.
Mike Cooke, as the Rocket builder, seems to be tip-toeing the line of building enough moths to stem the demand and making sure he has his own boat. Through a bit of work he has managed to borrow and loan some of his Rocket steeds back and has managed to attend a few events, with strong results. However, it looks like he might have to commit to building his own boat now if he wants to enter the worlds. He says he’s not bothered about competing but if the forecast looks like it will favour those who like the light stuff we can be confident he’ll mysteriously appear at the last minute.
Finally we have the ultimate category in moth sailing, the Home Builders .
Unlike the majority of homebuilders, Phil Oligario, regarded by many as the “home builder’s Yoda”, has managed to attend several events, enough to be in a great 7th place. Phil is showing great form and, like F1 teams, he seems to bring an “upgrade package” to every event. Whilst unlikely to snatch a podium place in the GP Series, he is looking good for the “Home Builders Cup” at the Worlds in July.
He will face strong competition from Alex Koukourakis. Al only managed to launch the “Chopper” mid-winter so missed the first half of the grand prix season. However, he is showing some great speed for a home build and could be a real competitor come July. Finally we have Dave Chisholm. We’re all waiting to see if Dave can get his stealth moth on the water in time for Hayling, or has he spent too much time posting pics of it on the internet? At least we all know the bare hull (no tramps, fittings, wings or rig) floats.
So will the “weekend warriors” be able to hang on will the more youthful and prodigious talent of the professional and semi professional sailors win through?
The only way to know is to come down and watch the last two events Stokes Bay on 31st May/1st June and the finale at Stone on 21st/22nd June.