The 2015 Moth Worlds, to be hosted by the Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club from January 9 to 16,will attract some of the biggest names in world sailing.
Oracle Team USA's sailing team manager, Tom Slingsby, has confirmed that the entire Oracle America's Cup sailing team will take part. Slingsby, the 2012 Olympic Laser gold medallist, has toyed with Moths in the past but this time has vowed to take it seriously. He and current Moth world champion, Nathan Outteridge, have been close friends and fierce rivals since childhood and this time Slingsby has vowed to spend some quality time in the Moth so he can give Outteridge a run for the title.
Other big names in the Oracle squad who will take part in the Moth Worlds include skipper Jimmy Spithill and wing trimmer Kyle Langford. Both are a little bit big for Moths, and Langford told me during the Cardiff Extreme Series that “apart from Tommy (Slingsby), we're all pretty useless”. However, the squad has already had one Moth camp and will hold another in November in San Francisco to hone their skills. And sailors of this calibre are never “pretty useless” by mere mortal standards. They see mastering the Moth as a good way to build skills for the new AC62s that will be used for the 35th America's Cup Match.
Lining up against Oracle, in the blue corner, will be Artemis Racing, led by Outteridge. He has won the world title twice and has been considered unbeatable in this class. He will be joined by his 49er crewmate Iain “Goobs” Jensen. The pair are the current Olympic 49er champions and Jensen has placed in the top 10 at Moth Worlds previously.
Perhaps the surprise packet from Artemis, and a fellow heavyweight for Spithill and Langford to line up against, is Olympic Star champion Iain Percy. Currently weighing in at close to 100kgs, Percy told me at the America's Cup skippers briefing in London yesterday that he thought the Moth Worlds would be good for team building and, like Oracle, believes any work on foiling boats is good preparation for the America's Cup.
“We haven't been doing as much high-level racing as we'd like, so the Moths will be a good one,” he said.
Aussie v Kiwi
An even juicier prospect than Slingsby against Outteridge, however, is Dean Barker from Emirates Team New Zealand lining up against Jimmy Spithill. Their rivalry is legendary. Responding to a comment from Barker at the skippers meeting, Jimmy posted a tongue-in-cheek comment on Facebook: “I can't believe Deano doesn't want to go for a beer…”
But ETNZ bring much more to the Worlds than just that rivalry. Olympic silver medallist in the 49er and the man tipped to succeed Barker on the wheel of ETNZ for the Cup is Peter Burling. The new “wonder kid” of Kiwi sailing, Burling and team mate BlairTuke have beaten Outteridge and Jensen in the 49er at their last three meetings. They are about to join battle again at the Santander ISAF Worlds and Outteridge is clearly aware of the threat that Burling poses to him, whether in 49ers, Moths or AC62s.
But if you're a gambler and you want a “smokey” for the Moth Worlds, a few dollars on Glenn Ashby could be a very lucrative bet. Nathan Outteridge told me the 14 times multihull world champion and 2008 Tornado Olympic silver medallist has been pestering him for set-up tips on the Moth, so he's obviously taking his first serious foray into monohulls seriously. When not in New Zealand, Ashby lives just down the road from the Sorrento venue and will get plenty of time to practice on the course.
Outteridge laughed about the phone calls. “I'm not sure I want to give him too much. He might beat me,” he joked. But knowing how much help Ashby gave Outteridge before the 2014 A Class Worlds at Takapuna, I know the favour will be returned.
This flood of America's Cup sailors won't please some of the regulars on the Moth circuit, but the organisers must be rubbing their hands with glee.
Entries are now open for the event at www.mothworlds.org/sorrento and it's a fair bet that former champions Josh McKnight, Andrew McDougall, Rohan Veal, Rob Gough, Scott Babbage and John Harris (AUS) along with Bora Gulari (USA) and a strong contingent from Great Britain will get their entries in early, hoping to repel the invasion of their class by these rock stars.
If the rest of 2015 is as exciting as this opening event promises to be, it will be a vintage year for sailing.
– Roger McMillan