Zhik Moth Worlds 2011 Preview.

Simon Payne - Moth World Champion - Abarth Brand Ambassador

There is a lot of attention on the International Moth and for good reason. The class is innovative and exciting and could be for sailing what snowboard X is to winter sports. We asked current Moth World Champion Simon Payne about the World Championships to be held from the 8-15th January 2011 in Belmont, Australia.

For Simon and other top-level moth sailors, it has been a busy time. This will be the 3rd World Championship since August 2009, with the last being held in Dubai in March 2010. Despite the intensity of the calendar, the 2011 Moth Worlds, sponsored by sailing clothing company Zhik has 112 boats entered, including some of the world’s best sailors.

Payne, who currently holds the British, European and World Champion titles says of the class’s success:

“Over the last few years we’ve seen outstanding inventions put into production. You can now buy a reliable competitive boat without having to make it, or bits of it. You only have to wait a few weeks for a new boat and this is a compelling offer given the unique appeal of the Moth. We’ve seen many new sailors come into the class as result who simply wouldn’t have been able to afford the time to do a self built one”

Buying a moth for sale is one thing, but becoming good enough at mastering the foiling dinghy to win the Worlds is another.

Predicting the form for the regatta in January is tough enough based purely on talent, but the Belmont World Championship will also feature new technology that could determine the winner. The Moth class has been experimenting with solid sails and if these wings work then the winner could have already won. While the next America’s Cup has chosen wing sails for the next edition, the Moth class has yet to fully approve solid sails – but Simon Payne thinks that they will race at the Worlds helped by a membership vote at the 2011 Europeans. Will they work? Another reason to pay closer attention to the beginning of the regatta than normal.

Though the wings have yet to race in anger, anecdotal evidence suggests they have great pace. Development of the wing sails is being led by 2009 World Champion Bora Gulari from the USA. If the wing works, then Gulari is a favourite for the event. He’s a proven winner and sails with the most tried and tested wing at this time. Is he really fast? Those in the hunt for the championship are taking no risks and a container load of wings have been shipped to Australia!

Gulari’s wing fits straight on his Mach 2 Moth. The  Mach 2 is currently the fastest and most popular design, with over 60 of this design registered for the event.

Other likely wing users include David Lister and 2008 World Champion, John Harris, both from Australia who initially came up with a 6 meter tall ‘rule bender’ that is yet to be measured, but in theory could beat everything. The Moth Executive Committee is currently in deliberations as to the legality of both wings in an effort to resolve the matter before the Worlds start and let the racing be decided on the water.

Other technical developments  could see Andrew “Amac” McDougall, 2nd at the last World Championships in Dubai and designer of the Mach 2 competing with a wing mast/soft sail combination, which could provide the best of both worlds. It will be a race against time and a large risk to test these developments in a World Championship.

Then there are the contenders who are most likely to do well on talent alone, without the help of technical innovation.

Payne is particularly concious of Australian, Nathan Outteridge – Olympic 49er sailor and current 49er World Champion. With recent success at the Moth European Championships, Outteridge has a fiarly good home-town advantage, having been born and bred on the lake. Local competition will come from Joe Turner, who has been fast in training with Laser World Champion and ISAF sailor of the year Tom Slingsby rapidly improving.

If the soft sail rigs, which are refined and reliable, prove to competitive against the wings then Britain’s defending World Champion Simon Payne has to be in with a good chance.

Payne’s Mach 2 carries the all-conquering KA rig, a combination Payne stands by. He says:

“We’ll let the elected committee and ISAF collectively decide what’s legal and what’s not. My job is to go and do the best I can with what I have. In my mind I have the best kit available”

Payne has recently become a brand ambassador for iconic Italian sports-car brand Abarth. The distinctive red livery and scorpion branding is a real change from most of the other moths which are carbon fibre black. Abarth’s brand motto “Small but wicked”, made the Moth class the perfect vehicle to promote the company’s distinctive Abarth 500 and Abarth Punto Evo models.

Elsewhere in the fleet, competitors to look out for include American Laser sailor and Olympic campaigner Brad Funk. Funk made a splash in the Moth class when he nearly won this years World Championships in Dubai finishing a credible third and has been training hard since. Unlike some of the other big guys he’s also good in the light and his all round game could well suit Lake Macquarie where we are sure, they will get a bit of everything.

And others? Americans Dalton Bergan, Charlie McKee and Adam Lowry will also be up on a charge as will Swiss “wunder kid” and former European Champion Arnaud Psarofaghis,

Certainly a lot of attention will be on the event in January. The class has got it’s multimedia going and as well as the official website and facebook page, many of the sailors have their own blogs. We’ll be watching closely.

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