If anyone is close to living the idyllic lifestyle, then it surely
must be Andy Budgen. An Olympic squad 49er sailor in his day, including a
silver medal at the 1998 49er Worlds with his brother Ian, Andy is a great
talent who never took it seriously enough to make it to the Olympic Games. If
he had made it to the Games, he would have thrived on the pressure; or rather,
other people's pressure - because Andy doesn't ‘do' pressure. He is laid back
to the point of being horizontal.
I must confess to being a bit jealous, because Andy has forged himself
a life that keeps him in almost permanent sunshine. This is the third winter
that Andy has disappeared downunder to Sydney to compete on the 18-foot skiff
circuit, while he flies back up this way for the summer season for some paid
professional sailing around the Solent and on big races like the Rolex Fastnet
Originally I think the plan was a "six months here, six months there"
scenario, but it seems that with every year the time in Australia grows by a
month or so. Now it's more like eight months there, four months here. Who can
blame him, with 18-foot skiff racing at the weekend and Moth sailing on Sydney
Harbour to keep him occupied during the week? It's a hard-knock life.
Andy was particularly busy with the Moth in the build-up to the recent
World Championships that took place up the road from Sydney at Lake Macquarie.
It was his first Worlds, and so to finish 11th out of 109 was not too shabby.
It also made him top Brit.
In the weeks leading up to the Worlds, all the talk was of the wing
rig that had been developed by a group of Americans led by 2009 World Champion
Bora Gulari. In the end Bora decided it was too risky to attempt the Worlds
with this barely-tested rig, but another American, double Olympic medallist
Charlie McKee took it on and finished 23rd overall.
The Worlds were dominated by double 49er World Champion Nathan
Outteridge, who also enjoyed the advantage of local knowledge of the lake where
he grew up. He was using a standard Mach 2 package with a few significant
tweaks, such as smaller hydrofoils for the strong breezes, and different gear
ratios between the bow wand and the flap on the central hydrofoil. Bora wasn't
entirely joking when he said that one of Nathan's big advantages of having
smaller wings on his foils meant he picked up less weed, which dogged the
course and forced competitors to make up to five tactical capsizes per race
just to clear their foils.
So after not dominating the Worlds, as some had feared it might, the
wing is not such a controversial topic as it had been in the lead-up to Macquarie.
I asked Andy his view on the wing. "I thought from a speed point of view it
seemed on par with maybe someone like myself upwind. But it seemed prone to
breakages, and when Charlie had used all the spare wings he went back to the
standard soft sail for the rest of the Worlds."
So, what future for the wing? "The way I see it," says Andy, "there
are two types of people attracted to the Moth -
the sailors and the boffins. There are some people who like boat work,
messing about with boats and foils, and people who just want a bog-standard
boat out of the box and go racing.
were quite excited about having something they could mess around with. The
American camp were looking for an advantage over the fleet, looking for a
quantum leap forward and hoping to get a better result, win the worlds,
whatever. I would say the general consensus was that, having seen the wing and
the problems involved, it has probably put people off from adopting the wings."
Part of the
problem with the wing at Macquarie was that the class rules weren't
sufficiently well worded to determine whether or not the wing was race legal.
So the class sought an emergency ruling from ISAF and the wing was allowed to
race at the 2011 Worlds. Now the class has a few months' breathing room to
formulate some better wording to govern this new technology, and the fleet will
have a vote on it at the Europeans later this summer."
of the attractions of the Moth is that you can buy a Mach 2 package and go very
quick. The package isn't exactly cheap, but the boat-in-a-box concept has
proven very popular, with more than 60 of the 109 competitors at Macquarie
using Mach 2s.
off-the-shelf option was what appealed to Andy Budgen, but if the wing became a
must-have piece of equipment, would he stay? "Absolutely not! First they're
expensive, and they don't look like a lot of fun to go sailing with, particularly how you get it in and out of the
water. Then you'd have to store it somewhere on shore, and as well as the
up-front cost there'd be development costs too."
Then again, as
Charlie McKee pointed out to me, without open development the class would never
have adopted hydrofoils, although Andy remains unconvinced. "Prior to the class
putting foils on, I wouldn't have gone anyway near the Moth. It was just a
small, difficult, not particularly quick boat. I could have got a trapeze boat
and gone faster. Now, though, with the foils I can beat all the 18 footers
round the course, by miles. It's become a class that you want to get involved
were a quantum leap forward in performance, but even when the wing is sorted,
it's not going to be noticeably better than what we've currently got. But the
expense and logistics are so much greater."
Simon Payne came
to Lake Macquarie as the reigning World Champion, having notched up a win in
Dubai which surprised even Simon. The Hayling Island sailor hadn't done much
practice for Dubai, but his light weight of around 65kg and long experience of
the Moth stood him in good stead on that occasion. He also came to Macquarie
unpractised, but this time his lack of weight told against him at what was
predominantly a very windy venue.
Simon also has
a commercial interest as the marketing man for the Mach II, yet as a Moth
sailor of more than 20 years, he is more open minded to the idea of ongoing
development than Andy.
up to the wing builders to develop it into something which the class is happy
about," says Simon. We will have a vote on this at some point. I've been around long enough to see the Moth
class grow rapidly through development like hydrofoils, but also shrink
immensely through development.
own feeling is I believe that with a Mach II at around US$20,000, it's
reasonable to assume a wing on top of that is going to be another $9000 or
$10,000, you're looking at a $30,000 boat in order to win. There is a
collective feeling that we might wind up similar to the C Class catamarans,
which is a great class but really only consists of a few highly expensive
is the Moth class's destiny to a certain extent, but the people bringing the
inventions into the class just have to understand that invention doesn't always
Ben Ainslie be going to the Olympic Games in 2012? If he does, he will surely
win gold and surpass Paul Elvstrom as the most successful Olympic sailor of all
that small ‘if' has grown into a big ‘IF', now that Giles Scott has beaten Ben
twice in major international regattas. The first time was last August at
Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta, when Ben hadn't long been back in the boat. Ben
finished 4th in Weymouth, bringing to an end a remarkable unbeaten run in the
Finn that stretched all the way back to May 2004.
in January at Miami Olympic Classes Regatta, Giles did it again, claiming gold,
relegating Ben to silver and Andrew Mills to bronze. A Skandia Team GBR clean
sweep of the podium, which was repeated in the 49er fleet, with John Pink and
Rick Peacock wrapping up the series before the Medal Race, ahead of Paul
Brotherton/ Mark Asquith and Dave Evans/ Ed Powys.
Brits scooped four gold, five silver, and five bronze medals across nine of the
12 events they contested, a mind-blowing set of numbers even by the standards
of Skandia Team GBR.
selectors face a big headache (but a nice one to have) in a number of classes,
where it will be tougher to win British selection than the gold medal at the
Games. Throw the reigning Finn World Champion, Ed Wright (not present in Miami)
into the mix, and you can see why Big Ben is by no means a dead cert for
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