49er Sailors New and Old Dominate Moth Worlds 2015

Thiery Martinez photo credit

The 2015 Moth Worlds in Sorrento Australia attracted global attention and a massive fleet of worldwide talent to compete in the foiling fleet that started it all.  Olympians new and old, AC teams, Mothies, newbies, and those just looking to have some fun formed a 160 boat fleet to contest the world title.

For many 49er sailors Sorrento was a familiar scene as it was the site of the 2008 49er World Championship.  A decade before that, also down under, the modern moth story begins with a few sailors creating hydro foiling sailboat.  By the early 2000’s today’s current configuration of a bow mounted wand controlling a flap on the centreboard T-foil with an adjustable rudder was adopted.  Since then there has been a decade of refinement and optimization leading to the boats we have now, mostly Mach-2’s, with slight enhancements to rig and set up but in large part similar beasts.

In the early and sometimes controversial cross over days the moth class was in dire straights, with fleet sizes dwindling and equipment becoming obsolete at an alarming pace.  A-Mac, designer of the Bladerider and now the Mach-2 solidified platforms that were competitive out of the box which formed the foundation of what is now one of the most popular classes in the world.  Then the America’s Cup shifted to foiling, attracting more of the worlds best sailors, more global attention, and the result was this massive fleet for the 2015 Moth Worlds.  America’s Cup teams included Oracle, Team New Zealand, Prada, and Artemis all sent sizeable squads to the event, with huge global names like Paul Goodison, Glenn Ashby, Ray Davies, Tom Slingsby, Dean Barker, Andrew Campbell, Freddy Loof, and Rome Kirby, all competing with varying amounts of practice and ambition.  Only Ben Ainsley Racing stayed on the sidelines preferring to shake hands at boats shows rather than go sailing.

Since the transition to foiling there has been much cross over between the 49er fleet and moth fleet, with guys like Bora Gulari (USA) putting an Olympic effort behind the development of Moths resulting in 2 world titles.  More recently Nathan Outteridge proved it’s possible to sail boats outside of Olympic programs and still win a gold medal as he dominated the 2012 49er quad while competing in Moth and AC events.  The boat handling challenges, speed, and great racing of moth sailing has continued to attract more 49er sailors, current and old into the class.  How would they fair against the AC bunch, the cat crew, and the hard core mothies.  Well, in 2015, with much of the racing at the upper end of the wind limits, 49er sailors new and old dominated the moth standings.

7 days of racing treated the world to another Burling versus Outteridge battle royal.  This rivalry seems like one destined to dominate the world of top level sailing for the foreseeable future as the 2 go head to head in the 49er, Moth, and AC regularly with intervals in A-Cats an others.  Once again, Burling was unstoppable taking 9 race wins from 14 races.  Even with that scoreline he was only 10 points ahead of Outteridge, who won 4 races along with 4 second places and fought all the way to the finish.  Burling has now claimed both titles Outteridge had such a strong grip on.  Outteridge won 3 of 4 world titles in 49er from 2009-2012 and the Moth World title in 2014.  Now Burling has won the 2013 and 2014 49er World titles and the 2015 Moth Worlds.

It might be easy from afar to say that Burling has Outteridge’s number and the torch has been past, but that would do no justice to the huge ambition of these two sailors.  Who knows if it mattered, but Outteridge was lobbying very hard to continue racing in the nasty conditions on the final day, so he could stay in the overall hunt.  The fleet had been sent ashore but it was Outteridge never gave up and pushed to get more racing in.  He wanted the title and he wanted the chance to best Burling.  Burling was more than happy to go out and win it on the water, but when they were sent out in that final race it was head to head between these two again.  Outteridge crossed just ahead of Burling on the first run of the day when he pissed it in… then just a few seconds later Burling pissed it in as well.  The two best sailors on the planet capsized in the same video frameshot of each other and both managed to right their boats and get going again before the fleet caught them up.  These two will keep pushing each other harder than any rivals since Scheidt versus Ainslie, except this time it will be at extreme speed!

There was much more to the event that just Burling and Outteridge, but the next real question is who are Josh McKnight and David Lister? Answer: the only 2 sailors in the top 10 without extensive 49er experience.  Yes, only 2 sailors from the top 10 aren’t from 49er.  In the battle of the former 49er helmsman, it was the battle of the Chris’s, with Rashley in 4th, Draper in 5th, and Rast in 7th.  Chris Rashley (GBR) took 4th after years in the 49er and his current position is GBR team coach to the 49erFX.  5th was Chris Draper (GBR) took Bronze in Athens along with 49er World titles in 2003, 2005 and 2006.  Chris Rast (USA) helmed the 49er for Switzerland in the 2004 games and then crewed in the 49er with Tim Wadlow finishing in 6th in Beijing.

Then came the first of the active crews.  To add intrigue to the Burling versus Outteridge main card was that both of their 49er crews are active in the moths too.  Blair Tuke (NZL) and Iain (Goobs) Jensen (AUS) were vying for crew dominance.  Jensen had the lead for much of the event, but Tuke pulled into 6th position with a gutsy final race where he finished in 5th to secure 6th overall.  Jensen had a rough final day, in nuclear winds, and fell back to 10th, both very solid finishes.  Many of sailings press and leaders come from a day before the 49er, where crew input upwind was so different.  With 49er crews so involved in racing both upwind and downwind, it’s no surprise within 49er that crews sailing level must be elite for a team to be elite, but that will continue to surprise the old guard for another decade at least.  Tuke and Jensen’s finishes should go a long way to shifting the perception.

The final 49er guy in the top 10 is Anthony Koutoun (ISV).  Anthony only spent a few years in the 49er and has been a leader in the moth class ever since.  He runs the US Moth class and had a great regatta in the breeze to finish 9th.  He’s likely pleased as many stereotype him as a light air specialist, with a Bronze at the 2014 worlds.  In 2015 he showed he can hang in the rough stuff almost as well.  Special mention to Bora Gulari (USA) who has often been going head to head with Outteridge in the moth.  He had a few incidents during the event but still managed a 12th overall.

It’s hard to say exactly why 49er sailing and moth sailing compliment each other so well, or at the very least seem to attract the same sailors.  The boats themselves are both apparent wind boats with an extreme feel any time the wind gets above 15 knots but many boats can say that.  More likely it is the strong component of class culture cross over, with teams enjoying intense and highly competitive racing with one another coupled with tremendous respect for even just going on the water and taking on the challenge.  In both classes, there are plenty of smiles on shore after a big day, and no hardship felt for pushing 100 percent.  Who knows when the next time we’ll see so much fleet mixing at an elite world championship.  AC is ramping up with the 45 circuit as is the 2016 Olympic push for the 49er guys, and with a summer world next there may be too much schedule conflict for so many top names to come together again soon.  2015 was a regatta to remember.

There are 2 great opportunities to watch Outteridge versus Burling upcoming.  The 2015 Seiko European Championship in Porto, Portugal is in July and the 2015 World Championship is in Buenos Aires, Argentina in November.   Sign up for email notifications of these and other 49er events.  Outteridge has been brushing off Burlings success in recent years claiming it’s been the ‘off season’.  It’s the season now, and both of these two sailor plus the rest of the 49er world are gunning for top spot.  The action will be thick and rich!

Thanks to Sailing Anarchy for heading up the live coverage, another step in the right direction for sailing.