Bala Sailing Club was the setting for the final UK International Moth class Grand Prix for 2017 over the weekend of October 7-8.
A small but keen group of 10 skippers had entered with some arriving early on the Friday to soak up the sights of Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake) with the hope of some quality time on the water. For the five skippers who made it onto the water they were rewarded with fantastic 12-15 knot flat water conditions from the SW blowing straight down the length of the lake. The only downside of a great sail being the demise of Chris White with a broken boom seeing him withdraw from the weekends event after travelling north from Cornwall. A number of skippers proceeded to gather in town for an Italian meal, a few beers and for some, a few more…
Saturday dawned with the forecast 12-20 knots alive and kicking straight down the lake again with the more experienced licking their lips and some less experienced wincing at what may lie ahead. After a precise but appropriately low key briefing given the smallish fleet size, including the Waszp fleet joining us, it was gear on and a launch to make the 12pm start time.
With the Moths being first away, the tricky placement of the start line to offer a genuine beat up the course on the simple windward/leeward course proved a difficult test in the gusting conditions. Do you lay through on starboard to run out of runway at the bank and have to make a quick tack? Or do you lay up on port with only the smallest distance between the pin and the bank and hope you can take off quick to clear the starboard brigade? It was James Ross here that took the latter option and jumped out on port to lead early showing the rest of us how it’s done. As the fleet settled into the race it was evident that the newer designs of David Smithwhite and James Ross (both Excocet) and Paul Hignett (Atomik Voodoo) were going to set the pace for the weekend as expected. By the end of race 1 with large shifts on the course offering plenty of pot holes and elevators it was Paul taking the first bullet from James with David settling for 3rd.
Moth and WASZP Open at Bala – photo © John Hunter
To think though that the front group was the only interesting race going on would be to overlook the close fought battles a little further back in the field. It was here where the older designs of recent years fought out the lower places. Chris Tilbrook (Ninja) chased the lead group hard in race 1 for his well earned 4th place and only result for the day, sadly succumbing to an old war wound.
A little further back Eddie Gatehouse and Mark Greaves (both Mach 2), Brad Gibson (Bladerider), Katie Hughes and Neil Cooney (both Ninja) all fought out some long close races with positions changing regularly in what was collectively for them slightly more testing conditions. Once again the Grand Prix finishing system was used to good effect allowing these older designs to experience the racing that foiling Moths offer at level that suits their standards or budgets.
Back to the front end and after slight tweaks to the weather mark position and length of the course, three more races followed under similar conditions but for a few light air patches preceding a rain front in race 3. The higher level of boat handling, speed and racecraft of the front 3 was clear, in particular by David Smithwhite who after having had a quiet word with himself following race 1, went on to record 3 straight bullets in commanding fashion. Both James and Paul were never out of the hunt, both rounding out the podium places at days end but just out of reach of the top spot.
In the pack behind, Eddie managed to pip Brad for 4th after a close tussle across the day. Katie found form in the lighter third race to record her best finish to be not far off the back of these two on the score sheet. Neil had his good moments only to find a lack of recent time in the boat costly at crucial moments and sadly Mark, after sitting well in race one saw a small tear turn into a big one in his starboard trampoline ending his day prematurely.
Moth and WASZP Open at Bala – photo © John Hunter
Tired bodies returned to the clubhouse and an evening meal and desert that could only be described as overly generous, served enthusiastically by our fantastic hosts at Bala SC. Beer was taken with the odd glass of Shiraz in the memory of what was a fantastic day’s sailing.
Sunday dawned and sadly with a lack of wind forecast an early decision to abandon racing for the day was made. With a score of 3 points from 4 races after discard David Smithwhite was declared the winner and on behalf of all skippers, roundly thanked our race team and generous hosts for a great weekend with confirmation that all wish to return for more.
With a an exciting UK GP series and a number of International events planned for 2018, anyone interested in joining the International Moth class is encouraged to get in touch via the UK Class website at www.internationalmoth.co.uk or follow the class on facebook here.