With a fraction more breeze to get the foilers fully airborne, day three of the Puma Moth World Championship was one for the US sailors. The big news though is that with the discard kicking in after race five, allowing him to rid yesterday’s last race when he broke his rig, so Britain’s Simon Payne has claimed the overall lead. Going into tomorrow’s layday, the 2006 World Champion is currently two points ahead of former US Olympic Laser sailor Brad Funk, who had a superb day, with European champion Arnaud Psarofaghis four points further astern.
Before the results had come through and his mighty 44 point race four could be flicked, Payne was relatively dismissive and uphappy with how he had done today, ‘merely’ posting a 3-4-3.
“Good, but not great,” he told thedailysail as to how he got on. “I missed some chances. In the first race I was fourth - I got into first at one stage, but it was so freaky going downwind you could lose miles. It looked pretty uniform across the course but when you are out there it is not at all. Upwind it was pretty uniform, then we started to find that the right was good and it proved to be just a drag race up the beats. Downwind it wasn’t that easy at all.
“The sea breeze came in - you could see the mark coming round to the right, so it made sense to go right, but it didn’t make sense to go left on the runs! When in no wind you go for that gybe to the finish, your heart is in your mouth - you have to keep it on the foils, because if you don’t you are going to lose six places.”
The downwinds were hindered further by the typical short chop, you get here, having increased slightly. This caught out 2009 Moth World Champion Bora Gulari in the final race when he suffered a full-on pitch pole on the run.
The awkward conditions today were confirmed by Australian 18ft skiff sailor Scott Babbage, who, unlike the majority here, has been sailing Moths since before they went foiling. “It is quite hard to see the pressure on the water to be honest," he said. "The gusts aren’t very well defined and there’s not much to them either. You get hit by a puff and nothing happens! The problem here is that there are shifts out there but because it is so light you can’t take every one so you tend to drag out to the corners. It is ‘pick your corner from the start and away you go. One or two tacks upwind and the same downwind – one or two gybes’. You aren’t really doing much.”
Despite doing well, Simon Payne clearly thinks he should be doing better were it not for some stupid mistakes that are the result of his lack of practice – out of action recently due to a knee injury. “In the last race I was second and I misjudged the layline from a mile out. Arnaud [Psarofaghis] tacked underneath me – but that is a symptom of my not doing any racing.”
Payne also reckons that sailing with a replacement mast has caused him to lose a little pace.
At the moment Payne isn’t counting his laurels, pointing out that this is only half way through the regatta and there are a bunch of sailors who are in the same ballpark points-wise as he is.
The wind was generally still single digit today but topped out at around 12 knots. There remained a haze ashore, from the ‘shamal’ that we understand is preventing the sea breeze kicking in any more than it is, but for the first time today we were able to get a view of some of Dubai’s extraordinary landmarks such as the vaguely sail-shaped 321m tall Burg Al Arab, supposedly the world’s most luxurious hotel (3 bed suite is just under £5,000/night) to the spiky heights of the year old Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building at 828m...
In today’s ever so slightly brisker conditions, US sailors seemed to excel, in particular Brad Funk, who after his bullet in yesterday’s final race, followed this up with a satisfactory 1-3-2 today. “I think those are keepers,” a contented Funk today thedailysail at the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club bar, whilst downing a wholesome post-race glass of milk. He was set to win today's last race until his kicker broke allowing European Champion Arnaud Psarofaghis to overhaul him and earn the bullet
“There was enough wind so we could foil all the time and that was good for me,” Funk continued. “There were a couple of beats where it got a little light on one side and I just avoided it. But everyone just goes to layline and tacks, because it wasn’t quite windy enough and shifty enough for you to actually play the shifts, so it was a simple race track like that.”
Standing on the boat that was pin for the start of race two there was a gentle but fast moving fizzing sound from behind us as Dalton Bergen zipped past our transom and successfully managed to port tack the fleet. This tactic singularly failed when three boats tried it in today’s third race.
“You know what? It really didn’t help that much because I was something like eighth at the first weather mark,” Bergen told us. “But it was fun. It was at the point of the regatta where I felt I needed to start taking some risks. I thought the right looked strong at the start, but it didn’t really work out.”
Nonetheless Bergen, who has twice mounted 49er campaigns for the US, and twice come second in the trials, won that race, slowly climbing through the fleet making his gains on the runs. “I think I am pretty fast downwind. I am a little smaller than most. I think I found some good pressure lines. I have a stiff CST mast with a good Kestner sail. You would think that was a fast combination upwind, but it is surprising fast downwind. Not everything in the Moth adds up to me!”
Bergen has been sailing in the Moth class for two years and competed last year at the Worlds in the Gorge, but based in Seattle holds a regular job as a mechanical engineer for a consultancy firm working for Boeing. At the Gorge he sailed in a Bladerider which subsequently died when “it flew off a bridge a couple of hundred of feet in the air!” Like most of the top players in the class, he has now graduated up to the Mach 2.
The US sailors here have been training hard, particularly ex-ABN AMRO Two crewman George Peet and defending World Champion Bora Gulari, who are training partners up on the Great Lakes.
“I did a week in Miami with Bora and Dalton and George Peet and learned a lot,” said Brad Funk, who lives in Fort Lauderdale. “They put me under their wing and taught me the ropes and how to rig the boat and tune it up, so that I can just go sailing. We are all pushing together and working as a team.” They have also sailed a few regattas together.
Bergen gave a slight insight into why they may be better when the breeze is up a little. “This is educational for sure. We have a bad attitude in the US where when it is light we allow ourselves to pump on to the foils. I think it is a good way for the class to go to be more stringent with the rules. We made some poor decisions and didn’t prepare for that.”
This evening they have just had the class AGM where we understand pumping was top of the agenda.
Tomorrow is layday at the Puma Moth World Championship with racing resuming on Friday.