Second world's win for the Emsworth express
So Emsworth’s finest has done it again – Simon Payne, 45, today won the 2010 Puma Moth World Championship, the second time he has earned this title.
For spectators today, Payne made it slightly tense, sailing a poor first race, coming home 10th his worst result of this 14 race series, barring his mast breakage in race four. Fortunately with two discards already in play, the lesser of these being a fifth, so the 10th became his new discard. With his main rival second placed Brad Funk, nine points behind going into today, finishing third in today’s first race, so Payne’s lead was narrowed slightly to seven points... But keeping close to Funk in the final race, Payne was eventually able to post a fifth, two places ahead of his young American rival, to claim the championship with a nine point margin.
“It is nice,” said Payne once back at the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club boat park and supplied with his victory beer. “I’m a little shocked actually, because I didn’t put much prep into this for a few reasons – I had a knee operation in December. I’ve only sailed five times since [the last World Championship in] the Gorge. I don’t feel fit, so I feel vulnerable physically, but I am going fast which is a good thing. It is a fantastic boat and it went together the first time and was fast straight out of the box. I was blessed with conditions which were more to my liking. I came here thinking if I make the top ten, then I’d have saved some face. So I feel quite proud about it, for an old bugger."
Racing finally took on a different complexion today with the wind hovering in the 10-11 knot range, for the first race at least. In this we predicted that it would be good for the American sailors and true enough (ha!) defending world champion, Detroit-based Bora Gulari powered through to win the pin at the start to take his first win of the series ahead of Dalton Bergen and Brad Funk.
Gulari put his victory down to his being informed by his girlfriend that he would get a 10 minute back massage for every place he gained today. “I think I’ve earned about 20 minute’s worth,” he quipped.
2 knots more wind than we’ve had for most of the regatta completely changed the complexion of today’s first race with crews fully hiking and boats going at a pace closer to top warp factor. “I was actually able to pull on the vang and stretch my legs for the first time this regatta,” said Gulari adding that more wind made the racing much closer too. “People aren’t so spread out – that’s the beautiful thing about having some breeze; it is close racing as opposed to having boats all over the show. Everyone has more fun.”
Generally of his racing this week that saw him end the regatta sixth, Gulari commented: “I practiced a lot and I think my boat handling and technique saved me some. If we’d had this [today’s first race conditions] the whole week I could have had a chance to defend. But c’est la vie.” But would the results have been different? “I think it would have been the same group of guys, but the order would have been a little different,” he maintains.
It was a fitting end to the regatta that today’s last race be won by Bladerider/Mach 2 designer Andrew McDougall, who scored two bullets in the first two races of this regatta and who’s score line today was enough to see him end up tied in second overall with Brad Funk.
“I had heaps of speed on all of them, but my boat handling was letting me down most of the time,” said McDougall of his racing today. “In the light stuff you can get it wrong but when you got it wrong today, any mistake cost dearly...”
And even all the top guns were making mistakes today. McDougall talked through one of his in the final race: “When Bora got to the [weather] mark, I had to go down behind him and I threw a tack underneath him as we went around the mark and I ALMOST made it...but just dropped off the foils and went back to sixth. And I nosedived a couple of times downwind.” During a run in the previous race, McDougall had fully pitchpoled, knocking him back from second to sixth.
With a little more breeze, the short onshore chop had got up and this was making life particularly hard on the downwinds. “I think we get greedy with the Mach 2, because it rides so high so easily you forget that if you just get one wave wrong - it goes...” commented McDougall. “So by the end I was pulling it [the ride height adjuster] way down – five or six turns - on and really lowered it and it worked – I was smoking Bora downwind and I was a little faster upwind. I just had to get one lap right without %$£%ing up and I got him!”
Brad Funk also admitted that he’d had trouble in the waves downwind, that had caused him, like McDougall, to flip in today’s first race. “I had to go slow, so I wouldn’t pitchpole, but that actually makes it worse. I couldn’t go fast because I went in the drink one time. I caught up, but the waves got bigger on the last one and I was so slow downwind, because I was holding back.”
With seven points to level with Payne going into the last race Funk said he had to look at his options. “I started to leeward of him. He goes high mode, but I wanted the option of being low and fast if I wanted, to have two options. I did that on the first beat, but I overstood the layline, so I was something like third at the top. But I was pretty slow on the runs. So it is a bit frustrating, but it definitely gave me something to work on. You hate to lose right there at the end. That has happened to me my whole life – it sucks,” concluded Funk, genuinely upset.
But the man of the hour is definitely Simon Payne, who also suffered from the short chop in today’s races. For the first race he reckons he had the gearing between his Mach 2’s wand and flap too low. “On the first run, I couldn’t go downwind - I was in a winning position and I capsized, you can imagine my feeling there. And then coming into the windward mark on port, I dropped the main sheet – which wasn’t very good, so I made a mental note to let the kicker off when I go around the mark and not before! So that fired me up a little bit.”
Between races Payne says he changed his wand settings and felt much happier with his speed. With a seven point lead to defend, he spent the whole of the next race keeping Funk on a tight lead. “I wasn’t really going to let him go. When he was in third, I was in fourth and that was all that mattered.”
Payne holds considerable respect for his young American rival who is just one of a number of Olympic sailors getting into the Moth. This is certain to be a major feature of next year’s World Championship on Lake Macquarie with half the Aussie Olympic team seeming to own them, along with the likes of James Spithill and Chris Nicholson. “Brad will win this event,” predicts Payne. “He is ahead of the other Americans. Get him on a KA rig and he’ll be even quicker. We want more people like Brad in the class.”
Payne agrees with Gulari that had there been more wind this week the top ten may have been the same people, only in a different order. “The US guys are well practiced in a breeze and they have done a lot of sailing. I don’t think anyone is much different in pace but they are slicker around the track. I would have been a bit random on the boat handling. But when Bora and I were sailing together in the most breeze in the training before the event, I had the edge on him in the upwind.”
With Payne 45 and McDougall 56, two out of the three leaders at this Puma Moth World Championship is a ‘master’. What does this mean? Anything? “It is a great class when you have people of such different ages and weights, “ says Payne. “Sometimes when you don’t have that many more left in you, you try a little bit harder. Also there is a pressure aspect to these events, based on the pressure you put on yourself when you train and also when you get into it and you’ve got to do it on the final day. Maybe when you are a little bit older it is easier to handle that. If things don’t go your way, you sit tight and wait for them to go and don’t blow up.”
So how come Payne's so good?
At 68.5kg, a couple of kilos up from his normal fighting weight (post knee operation), Payne is certainly at the lighter end of the Moth spectrum.
It may be no coincidence too that Andrew McDougall and Payne are effectively the ‘Mach 2 works team’, respectively the boat’s designer and the chief marketer – professionally Payne has his own company, Sales & Marketing Planning, the Mach 2 being one of his clients.
These two are also two of the longest standing members of the Moth class. While Payne is well known for his previous Worlds win in 2006, he has also won the European championship four or five times the first being in 1994. He says he won his first race at a Europeans all the way back in 1986. As he puts it: “The DNA of the class runs through my veins.” Aside from the Moth he occasionally crews on an RS200 and also has a 50 year old Folkboat, but admits: “For me I just can’t get used to not doing 15 knots all over the place. And I love the people. If I gave up Moth sailing, the one thing I’d miss would be the people.”
We polled a few others about why Payne was winning. Another long term UK Mothie Adam May reckons it is not just Payne’s light weight. “I would like to say that was an advantage if I wasn’t almost identical to his weight! His technique is very very good. Downwind his technique has always been good. He has always had an edge in the marginal stuff downwind on the feel and the steering just to soak those few degrees without losing the pace, while others are hunting around a bit more. And I think he is good at the big events.”
Brad Funk gave his view: “He is sailing clean and he is getting great starts and I think he’s just really good in these conditions. He is a little lighter, he has a lot of experience. I take my hat off to him – he sailed really well and let us make the mistakes.”