The return of AMac
With the same intense sun and haze over the land obscuring even Dubai’s most extravagant landmarks and the wind back down to 6-8 knots again - marginal foiling territory - so day four of racing at the Puma Moth World Championship had a slight feeling of ‘groundhog day’ about it. The only difference was that with the wind dying PRO David Campbell-James sent the fleet ashore after the second race, canning today’s third.
Today’s racing may have only been in roughly two knots less wind than we saw on Wednesday, but in this wind range it is significant for a fleet of foiling Moths with mixed experience skippers. For example the US sailors Dalton Bergen, Brad Funk and Bora Gulari seem to really come into their own in the 8-10 knot range, just above marginal foiling and seemed fractionally off form today, while ‘the master’ from the first two days, Andrew McDougall (‘AMac’), posted a 2-1, hoisting him back up to fourth overall.
However Britain’s Simon Payne wasn’t far behind AMac with a 1-3 and continues to lead the Puma Moth World Championship, but on 17 has only a three point advantage over Brad Funk and Switzerland’s Arnaud Psarofaghis tied in second. With two days of sailing left Payne appears to be in good shape. When today’s second discard kicked in after race nine, Payne was able to discard a 5th (the nearest competition in this respect was Arnaud Psarofaghis who discarded a ninth). So while it is still close at the top he can effectively afford one mediocre result over the remainder of the series.
In the first race today Payne got off to a blazing start heading out to the left and was first to the weather mark where he says he struggled to stay airborne (the most basic rule of thumb sailing foiler Moth is that out of the water is fast, ‘lowriding’ isn’t) because of the press boat wash (not ours). “There was so many waves at the windward mark, it was like the Southern Ocean, but Arnaud and AMac and I got away.”
Otherwise Payne says he found race one quite even - once he was in the lead he was able to cover as in a normal race. He added that he felt more confident of his pace today as he has been reunited with the mast, itself reunited since it broke on Tuesday. As a result he felt he was extending on the upwinds.
With the wind dropping for today’s second race life was harder and Payne was OCS. “It was impossible to foil off the line, so I tried to stay on the foils and I just misjudged it. But I gybed around and came out on port which proved to be an okay start.” He rounded the top mark in fifth or sixth place but it was a case of whoever was fortunate or skilful enough to find a gust got ahead. Payne got up to second at one point, but ended up third.
Having spent the first race battling for second with Andrew McDougall, leading for most of today’s second race was Arnaud Psarofaghis until the old master slide ahead of him on the final run. “He just went past me,” described the Swiss sailor, who is the present European champion. “I gybed too early and he went nicely and he went straight to the finish while I had to gybe twice. He [AMac] seems to be going five degrees lower downwind all the time.” In the marginal conditions the boats sail big angles to stay airborn, but approaching the gate in these light winds, McDougall has a technique where he gets close and then low-rides round the mark.
Psarofaghis’ cousin Mikis, who is also sailing here, posted the best result of the series so far with an eighth in race two. Similarly George Peet, Bora Gulari’s training partner, pulled it out of the bag in today’s first race, posting a ninth, his first top 10 result.
With three quarters of the regatta now gone, a distinct split has opened up in the scoring between the top nine, with local hero (and national champion) Chris Graham bringing up the rear on 44 points and the ‘mid-fleet’ with Adam May holding tenth on 68.