Josh McKnight hangs on to take title
Scott Babbage capsizing at the first weather was enough of an indication of how demanding but equally spectacular conditions there were for the final day of racing at the Zhik Moth World Championship.
The Pelèr, morning northerly breeze on Lake Garda, was blowing furiously from early on and with a violent storm forecast to hit Campione del Garda in the afternoon, the race committee had scheduled a 10am start.
That gave the 60-strong Gold fleet of moths the opportunity to sail three exciting races that saw Josh McKnight prevail, practically from start to finish.
When the race committee fired the gun for the day's first race, the 20-25 knot Pelèr and one metre waves were guaranteed to put a big strain on the sailors and their boats. Both Babbage and McKnight had a clean start in the middle of the line and headed to the right-hand side of the course, as close to the eastern shore of Lake Garda as possible. Babbage was in the lead at the first top mark with McKnight hot on his heels. That's when opportunity knocked on McKnight's door. A few hundred meters after the distance mark Babbage capsized and went for a swim. Then not only did McKnight assume control of the race, he stretched his lead and won with ease, ahead of Babbage and fellow Australian Rob Gough who would have his best day of the event.
In the second race, conditions weren't as brutal, but still more than 20 boats had to either abandon due to gear failure or opt for the safety of the marina. Without any doubt, the man of the race was Rob Gough whose bold tactical call paid a huge dividend and handed him the victory. On the northern race area, the eastern shore of Lake Garda is usually favoured, however, Gough saw a big left shift coming, separated from the bulk of the fleet and seemed like the lone ranger, approaching the first weather mark from the
left. The move paid off and he rounded the first mark in third place, behind Mcknight and Babbage. He stuck to his strategy and overtook the leading pair while Babbage snatched second place from McKnight right on the finish line.
As the sky cleared and temperatures rose, the Pelèr abated for the third race. McKnight and Babbage were still separated by just two points and all McKnight had to do was to avoid having two boats between him and his rival. Not only did he achieve that, he had a commanding lead from the start, crossing the finish line in front of Babbage. Rob Gough came in third and snatched the final podium place from
Anthony Kotoun who struggled in these stronger conditions.
“I'm pretty relieved because a lot of effort and money has been going into this program," said McKnight. "I sailed a little bit more consistently when there was less breeze and Scott was a bit more unfortunate in one race where he got a 16th, but that's sailing. It's really unfortunate for him. He probably put more time into this regatta than anybody else. I feel kind of bad taking it away from him, but at the
same time I'm happy and relieved I did it.
"It wasn't all easy today. Scott was ahead in the first mark but I had a two-point lead coming into the day so I knew I had to take a lot less risk than he did in order to win. I tried to sail safely and even if he did beat me in the second race on the finish line, I figured it was just one point. Scott and I train a lot in this type of conditions and he's the one that usually gets away and waits for me. So, for me to win in these conditions is really surprising."
Scott Babbage led the regatta from the outset only to be overhauled by McKnight yesterday: “I'm pretty disappointed although I'm happy for Josh because he sailed very well. As I said before, we have been training together all winter and it's good to see that training paid off. The start of the week was good, I had a very good qualifying series but I had a bad day in the final that cost me.”
This concluded the 2012 Zhik Nautica Moth World Championships where there were record-setting participation both in terms of sailors (125) as well as countries (20). Conditions were on the lighter side in the beginning of the event, but then Lake Garda delivered and the Moths once again demonstrated their 'wow' factor. The Moths will now fly again in the 2013 World Championship that will take place in October on Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.
Full results below