Small, but wicked

James Boyd Photography /
Simon Payne and his backing from Italian car manufacturer Abarth
The last season or so Simon Payne has been sailing around with the word ‘Abarth’ written on the side of his Mach 2 Moth. Last week we discovered that this doesn’t refer to some obscure Hampshire-based software company but is indeed promotion of the Italian sportscar brand, once popular back in the swinging 1960s. At a function at dealership Meridian Milano, based just outside of Portsmouth, Ivan Gibson, responsible for the Abarth car brand within the Fiat group in the UK, confirmed their support of the double Moth World Champion. Of course car manufacturers play a big part in yachting, Audi with the MedCup, Volvo with their round the world race, BMW in the past with Oracle Racing, Jaguar, briefly, with TeamOrigin, etc. In the UK once upon a time Audi supported the Laser skiffs when they were ‘the thing’ and today Volvo, VW and Citroen support a number of top Olympic sailors. But for a sailor outside of this arena, such sponsorship is rare. “It is really a by-product of the success of the class and how good we have been at making it aesthetically pleasing and marketable,” says Payne. “At the Worlds other sponsors came on board like Color 7...” Abarth as a brand was well known through the 1950s and 1960s for its compact sports car, but after it was acquired by Fiat in 1971 it essentially became the specialist racing arm within the Fiat group, responsible for development work, not just for Fiat, but also for its other subsidiaries such as the Alfa Romeos in the British Touring Car Championship, the Lancia Deltas and Integrals in World Rally Championship, etc. The brand was mothballed (!) in the early 1990s but relaunched in Italy in 2007. “One of the old adages from the 1950-60s and the