If Scott Babbage capsizes at the first weather mark then words are not enough to describe the tough, demanding but equally spectacular conditions on a race course. The "Pelèr", the morning northerly breeze on lake Garda, was blowing furiously from early on and with a violent storm forecast to hit Campione del Garda in the afternoon, the race committee had scheduled a 10am start. That gave the 60-strong Gold fleet of moths the opportunity to sail three exciting races that saw Joshua McKnight prevail, practically from start to finish.
When the race committee fired the gun for the day's first race, the 20-25 knots of Pelèr and one-meter waves were guaranteed to put a big strain on the sailors and their boats. Both Babbage and McKnight had a clean start in the middle of the line and headed to the right-hand side of the course, as close to the eastern shore of lake Garda as possible. Babbage was in the lead at the first top mark with McKnight hot on his heels. That's when opportunity knocked on McKnight's door. A few hundred meters after the distance marker Babbage capsized and went for a swim. Not only did McKnight assume control of the race, he stretched his lead and won with ease, ahead of Babbage and fellow Australian Rob Gough who would start his best day in the event.
In the second race of the day, conditions weren't as brutal but no less than 20 boats had to either abandon due to gear failure or opt for the safety of the marina. Without any doubt, the man of the race was Bob Gough whose bold tactical call paid a huge dividend and handed him the victory. On the northern race area, the eastern shore of lake Garda is usually favored. However, Gough saw a big left shift coming, separated from the bulk of the fleet and seemed like the lone ranger, approaching the first weather mark from the left. The move paid off and Gough rounded the first mark in third place, behind Mcknight and Babbage. He stuck to his strategy and overtook the leading pair while Babbage would snatch second place from McKnight right on the finish line.
As the sky cleared and temperatures rose the Pelèr abated in the third race. McKnight and Babbage were still separated by a two-point cushion and all McKnight had to do was to avoid having two boats between him and his sparring partner. Not only did he achieve it, he had a commanding lead from the start, crossing the finish line in front of Babbage.
"I'm pretty relieved because a lot of effort and money has been going into this program. I sailed a little bit more consistently when there was less breeze and Scott was a bit more unfortunate in one race where he got a 16th but that's sailing. It's really unfortunate for him. He probably put more time into this regatta than anybody else. I feel kind of bad taking it away from him but at the same time I'm happy and relieved I did it.."
Rob Gough came in third and snatched the final podium place from Anthony Kotoun who struggled in these conditions.
Sunday's races conclude the 2012 Zhik Nautica Moth World Championships that saw record-setting numbers both in terms of participating sailors (125) as well as countries (20). Conditions were on the lighter side in the beginning of the event but then lake Garda delivered and the Moths brought the "wow" factor back into sailing. The Moths will now fly again in the 2013 World Championship that will take place in the month of October on Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.
Gold Fleet Top Ten After Three Races
1. Joshua McKnight (AUS) - 17 pts
2. Scott Babbage (AUS) - 20pts
3. Rob Gough (AUS) - 51pts
4. Anthony Kotoun (ISV) - 53pts
5.Andrew McDougall (AUS) - 61pts
6. Bora Gulari (USA) - 66pts
7. Chris Rashley (GBR) - 74pts
8. Julian Salter (AUS) - 85pts
9. Simon Payne (GBR) - 97pts
10. Brad Funk (USA) - 99pts
Event Website - www.mothworlds.org