I’m excited to share that by the time you read this, I will be living in Barcelona and working as a Mechatronics Engineer for American Magic. I’m pumped to be joining this team and immersing myself in the America’s Cup that combines sailing and engineering at the highest levels. I know I’ll learn a tremendous amount and I can’t wait to get started. In the meantime, I’d like to share a recap of the most important sailing event for me this year: the recent 2023 Wetsuit Outlet and Zhik Moth World Championship which came and went like the wind…well, kind of.
Due to a lack of wind and therefore lack of racing, on the trip home I had a strange feeling of emptiness and disbelief, mixed with gratitude and still raring to go, as if it hasn’t even started yet. We were only able to complete two races per qualifying fleet (two fleets of 64 boats) in seven days. The cruel part is that we had great conditions for over two weeks before the Worlds, and then a terribly unlucky week-long window for the Worlds. It was almost always under 7 knots for a week straight. The days of waiting on shore, starting at 6:30 am in the boat park, and going out to try and start a race all blended together. I finished 36th/128 overall and top female. However, due to the four-race minimum to constitute a World Championship, the event did not count as a Worlds!
I was really glad to have two weeks of boat work and training – mostly boat work! – before the event. The UK Open, held a couple of days before the Worlds, provided us with five races to tune up for the main event. This regatta showed me that I needed to work on my starts, and that my speed was good.
One highlight was the Women’s and Youth clinic that was held before the UK Open. Lining up for speed tuning and drills with the other female sailors was super fun and we were all buzzing. I can’t wait for more of that! The lowlight was breaking a tiller in a tack when the mainsheet got wrapped around my ankle, just 10 minutes into a practice session the day before the UK Open, and after several 12-hour days of a little sailing and lot of boat work!
Since we only had two races, I’ll go into a bit of detail on each. They both had great moments and both had one big mistake. In the first race of Worlds, I came off the foils in a gybe just before the start. I was able to get foiling just after the start, but most of the fleet was already way ahead. However, with some solid, disciplined strategic decisions and good speed I overtook almost 40 boats to finish 18th. I was able to capitalize on the catch-up opportunities presented by the bottom of the course (gate mark and finish) being so light that boats fell off the foils (including me).
In the second race, I realized the boat end of the start line would be crowded and therefore risky. With just over two minutes to go, I made the decision to start on port. All I had to do was make all of my gybes and time my final approach well. I started on port at the pin with speed, and was able to go to the favored right side. I had good speed and foiling tacks, rounded the leeward gate in the top 15. I should have over stood the gate marks but did not, so I had to do another gybe and round the right hand gate to stay foiling. I thought I saw pressure on the left side of the course along the harbor wall, but it never came, so once I tacked onto port, I had to low-ride (not foiling) almost all the way to starboard layline. Brutal! About ten boats passed me from that bad decision, so I finished 25th.
While waiting for wind, the women in the fleet gathered for a chat on several topics. These badass sailors all have different paths to Moth sailing and they all inspire me. We all shared some thoughts on Moth sailing and how to get started, check it out the conversation here.
Something I am proud of is my adaptation to new gear just before the event. I only had a couple of days of sailing before Worlds to adjust to using a new Quantum H1M mainsail, short (foil) verticals, and a Bieker V8 main foil. My experience over the past couple of years in setting up and trying different gear, and learning how to get it dialed quickly is starting to pay off! I was able to adjust my technique and make the boat fast without much prep time.
I’d like to thank the UK International Moth Class Association, the Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy, the event organizers, the many volunteers, the race committee, and the event sponsors. I know this week was just as strange and frustrating for them as for the competitors. A big thank you goes to the St Francis Sailing Foundation for the support to attend Worlds, and to my sponsors Ronstan and Vakaros. I love Moth sailing for all the following reasons and am excited to be part of the international Moth community:
- Constant learning on all fronts.
- The sensation of flying, going fast, landing a smooth tack or gybe.
- Learning about boatwork and trying new ways to do things.
- Learning about different foils and sail shapes.
- The athletic challenge and full-body workout.
- The mental challenge of training and performing at event.
- The interesting, passionate people that I meet.
- The cool places that I get to sail.
- The opportunity to master new skills: skippering (I was always a crew in double handed boats), being fully responsible for tactics and strategy, and surprising myself with performing under pressure.
- Lineups, discussions, and laughs with my training partners Richard and Brooks.Inspiring other sailors, especially women and girls, to try Moth sailing.
Follow me in Barcelona on instagram @helenas9.