It wasn’t supposed to go like this. After being initially postponed in 2020 for obvious reasons, the 2023 Wetsuit Outlet and Zhik International Moth World Championship at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy (WPNSA) should have been rewarded with the amazing South Westerly winds and perfect foiling conditions that Portland Harbour is renowned for. Instead, the high pressure system that was locked over the UK provided fickle and feeble easterlies.
A number of SSL Gold Cup team members were competing at the event, including SSL Team France’s Jean-Baptiste Bernaz who finished second overall, SSL Team Germany’s Philip Buhl who finished ninth overall and SSL Team Australia’s Tom Burton who finished eleventh overall.
In the end, after seven days, just two races were completed for the two qualifying groups. Principal Race Officer David Campbell-James did all he possibly could to run racing over the week, and the groups were alternately sent out into the harbour when conditions looked hopeful, once even managing a start which had to be abandoned after the first leg with half the fleet still languishing at the start line while the leader rounded the windward mark. It simply wouldn’t have been fair racing to let it run on.
Reducing the number of races needed to make this a valid championship was also looked at, but the consensus was that this wouldn’t have been satisfactory, and as the hours, minutes and seconds ticked by on the final day of the event, it became increasingly obvious that the 2023 Moth World Championship title wasn’t going to be awarded.
A low-key prizegiving was held at the WPNSA, which was understandably subdued, but there was a warm round of applause for all the volunteers who have given up their time to run the event. From mark layers, safety boats, the committee boat team, the dinghy park team, the caterers, and many more, they’d all got up for early starts and happily carried out their role. For the organisers, this was an event five years in the planning, and they were understandably so upset that the racing was disrupted.
There was also massive appreciation for all the sailors who had travelled from all corners of the world to compete. They’d invested time, effort, and money, and for the wind not to show up is cruel on everybody. The venue is fondly known as ‘Foiltown’ as it’s usually so reliable with its wind and perfect flat water, but it was far from that last week.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom in Portland, and the chat and banter in the dinghy park was superb. Discussions about the class and developments were had aplenty, and many laughs shared. The class itself is in rude health, as demonstrated by the strong and deep entry list, and the range of new designs sailing. Very good second-hand boats are now available at more affordable price points, so there’s never been a better time to get into the class.
Video discussions were held with elder statesmen and female competitors at the event, which looked back at the beginnings of foiling, where the class is today and how it’s developing, as well as future training camps which can be such a good way of making your first steps in foiling sailing. These will be must-watch videos for years to come and have already led to much further discussion. The female contingent is not only strong, but also hugely proactive in encouraging and helping more sailors come into the class.
When it comes to the youth, a star is born in Jacob Pye. The 17-year-old Kiwi won the UK Open prior to the Worlds, and recorded first places in the two races he sailed at the World Championship. He’s grown up through the Starling, O’pen Skiff, 29er and WASZP classes and, together with fellow Manly Sailing Club youth sailors Mattias Coutts and Jack Bennett, we saw the next generation of foiling superstars this week.
There are many other young sailors coming up through the ranks as well, such as France’s Enzo Balanger who finished sixth overall, and Norway’s Nicolai Jacobsen in eighth.
Just as important are the weekend sailors, the homebuilders, and those just starting out on their foiling Moth journeys. They bring so much fun and energy to the class and ensure it will remain strong for years and years to come.
It was without doubt a difficult week for all, but the Moth class is as healthy as it has ever been. The sailors will all go home with new ideas and new friends, the class will continue to evolve, and the WPNSA will host many future events in perfect wind conditions.