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2 January 2005, 08:58 am
Les Thorpe Wins
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Australian Moth Championship

There was next to no wind across Port Phillip Bay from Blairgowrie to Port Melbourne at Sail Melbourne yesterday morning, forcing organisers at the various championships to hold competitors ashore until late afternoon. At Black Rock Yacht Club, 41 Moth sailors competing for the Australian title on their final day of racing sat ashore waiting.
They were finally rewarded when the wind eventually arrived late afternoon - a pleasant 10-14 knots, giving the entire fleet a fair go.

Their series ended with six races - one short of the required seven that would have allowed for one race drop - resulting in a heavy penalty for those who had a bad result in the series.

The worst affected was local Black Rock sailor and promoter of the 'hydrofoil', Rohan VEAL (AUS), who won every race of the series bar one - the light weather race of Thursday morning, in which he finished 17th.

The 'foilers' don't work well in light air - they are at their best in 10 knots plus, but for these titles, those competitors using foils are not allowed to remove them - they were required sail the full series in either their foil configuration or conventionally.

For their World Championship, to be conducted at Black Rock YC from 2-8 January, foilers will be able to switch between the two configurations for their ten race series.

However, it was Les THORPE (AUS) who won the title, finishing eight points clear of Veal. Thorpe, who sails a conventional Moth, finished second in every race, except for Race 3, in which he finished fourth. It was enough to clearly give elated Thorp the win.

Thorpe has lived somewhat in the shadow of his older brother Mark, the winner of three world titles; 1998, 2001 and 2003, and the Open European Championship in 2002. Les finished second to Mark at the 2003 Worlds, but this win may be just the thing to spur him on to bigger things.

At their prize giving last evening, it took ten strong types to heave the well-built Thorpe into the tide, as part of his 'prize' for winning.

Stephen DONOVAN made up the top trio, finishing his regatta on 32 points, with Aaron GREGORY close behind in fourth with 39 points. Current World Champion, Chris DEY (AUS) finished the event in 14th place, however, as Rohan VEAL explained, 'a lot of the guys were more in testing mode for the worlds and checking out the opposition - I think some results might be quite different come the Worlds.'

Veal, who has sailed a Moth for the past four years is the current Open European champion, is a favourite for the title. He says if the weather is light, Yumiko SHIGE (JPN), one of only three women competing, will be very hard to beat. She finished fifth in the Open Australian's, one of only two international entries in the top five.

'She is very fast, very agile and you have to be on your toes all the time with her,' he says of the 'pocket rocket' 39 year-old, who stands 150cms tall and weighs in at around 50 kilos - perfect for light weather Moth sailing.

Shige's sailing prowess is impressive. She has represented Japan twice at the Olympics in the 470 class, winning Silver in Atlanta in 1996, but missing the medal at the Sydney 2000 Games. She has sailed in Melbourne before too, finishing 23rd in the Sail Melbourne 1999 Worlds in the 470 - so she knows Port Phillip.

Should the fleet experience heavier winds though, which is what Veal is hopeful of, then, he says, 'Adam MAY (GBR), a former Tornado Olympian, Simon PAYNE (GBR), the current European champion and 'a couple of the West Australian guys will be the ones to give me trouble. There are others too.'

Others to watch at the Worlds are the 1999 European champion, Patrick RUF (SUI), Doug PYBUS (GBR) who finished third in the Open Australian Championship and expatriate Australian and foil sailor, Mark ROBINSON, now sailing for Singapore. At this event, Robinson suffered gear failure in one heat and says he played 'tag team cart-wheeling' in another, to finish a disappointing 10th for the Open title.

Around 58 competitors (aged anywhere from 17-60) from Australia, UK, Japan, Switzerland, Germany and Singapore will take part in the International Moth Worlds and Sail Melbourne organisers invite the public to come and watch these incredible flying machines in action on the Bay next week.

Top five final Australian Championship results:

1 SECTOR 7-G Les Thorpe 14-2, 2, 2, 4, 2, 2

2 OUTLAW Rohan Veal 22-1, 1, 1, 17, 1, 1

3 KARMA PACKAGE DEAL Stephen Donovan 32- 4, 11, 4, 6, 3, 4

4 PIMP JUICE Aaron Gregory 39- 9, 6, 3, 7,9, 5

5 STATIC JAKEL Andrew Sim 42-8, 10, 6, 2, 6, 10

Di Pearson - Sail Melbourne Media
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