RS200 Nationals (again...) followed by Moth Nationals
It's not easy settling back into the office routine after two back-to-back national championships at the RS200s followed by the Moths, but the memories of these past two weeks of fantastic sailing are still fresh and warm. Always as quick on social media as he is around the race course, that pesky George Yeoman has beaten us to getting an RS200 Nationals blog submitted, but here's my take on the event anyway:
Mounts Bay is always one of my favourite venues largely due to the stunning scenery and the potential for massive waves when the wind is from the south. Our week had everything: big wind and waves on day one, moderate dying to very light wind with big waves on day two, leading into an unscheduled lay-day on the beach on day three in no wind and hot sun (or in our case, an afternoon sipping chilled Viognier-Muscadet from an ice bucket on a balcony overlooking the mount... life can be hard). The wind swung around to the north for the final two days, presenting some aggressive chop on day four and flat water on day five, both in moderate shifty winds. I like varied weeks like this, as it gives everyone the chance to shine in their specialist conditions, while rewarding with consistent results those who have the ability to adapt their technique across all conditions.
Having finished 18th and 14th in the last two RS200 Nationals, we were keen to break into the top 10 this year. We still struggled for downwind pace as Sophie and I hadn't sailed together in waves before, and my experience of steering and surfing in a Laser counts for little when you have an asymmetric at the front. We did however manage to find an extra gear upwind, allowing us to consistently hold our lanes off the gate starts and send the boat out to the side of the course we wanted to attack in clear air. We had been very consistent in Abersoch last year, only finishing outside the top 20 on the two races where we had kit failure; this year we never dropped below 15th, even after a slightly embarrassing capsize in one race when the kite stuck and filled mid-hoist on the tight spreader leg. At least there was nobody flying a drone overhead to capture the entire episode in exquisite detail(!)
Congratulations to James Peters and Jo Wright for a dominant win, and Matt Mee and Emma Norris for a very strong second. 3rd-9th were all very close on points, which made finishing 9th slightly bitter-sweet at the thought of what might have been, but we came away very happy with how we sailed and pleased to have achieved the top-10 that we had set our sights on. Here's to a top-5 in Tenby next year!
And now for the Moths...
Sitting patiently on the roof of my car in Mounts Bay for the entire week of 200ing was my lovely Moth, Crystal. Last time I'd sailed her I'd ripped the tramps, so they were at Creation Covers being repaired for delivery direct to Weymouth for the Nationals (thanks to Chris Gould for turning them around so quickly and getting them delivered on time!) This meant a somewhat frantic first day on arrival, trying to reassemble the wings and get the tramps back on, which proved far harder than I thought due to the extra reinforcement that the newly-repaired tramps had along the bolt ropes. The very tight fit meant that I missed the start of the first race, but now that they are on they fit perfectly and will last for some time!
Having only been in the boat for a few months, I had few expectations coming into this event, and pledged simply to finish as many races as I could as well as I could, and have fun.
Having fun isn't hard when sailing a moth - they are naturally thrilling, but after two races were cancelled on day one due to lack of wind, the four race schedule of day two in a fresh breeze was exhausting. After a few mid-fleet results due to poor boat-handling, in the final race I was finally up in a good position just outside the top 10, when on the first downwind leg I dropped the mainsheet.
In a conventional boat you might get away with a simple mistake like dropping your mainsheet. In a moth what happens is you immediately pitchpole and get thrown out past the shrouds. If you are especially unlucky, as I was, there will be another moth right behind you doing 25kts who won't have time to avoid an inevitable collision as he's simply trying not to decapitate himself on your foils, and so he will take your rudder off with his forestay. I was able to limp the boat back ashore where the good people at Maguire Boats did an excellent job of repairing the rudder overnight so I could sail again the next day.
Four more races on day three in a perfect warm sunny sea breeze, and with my newly repaired rudder I found a bit of speed. Pulling on all the controls as hard as you can to get the sail super-flat, riding as high as you dare with the rudder up and bow down, hiking like a badger and building the apparent wind, sailing a moth upwind is like nothing else, but there is a surprising amount you can carry across from Laser sailing. I was hugely pleased to finish 9th in one race on this day, being narrowly beaten by some serious talent and Olympic medal winners, and actually ahead of one Olympian (who might have missed the start... but it all counts, right?!).
I definitely have a full-blown moth addiction now, and I'm looking forward to getting my boat handling smoother and more consistent over the winter, ready for the Garda World Championships next summer. I have a new boat arriving early next year, so Crystal will be up for sale then. Anyone looking for a competitive moth...?