On day five of the 2012 Zhik Nautica Moth Worlds, sparring partners Scott Babbage and Joshua McKnight excelled in the fabulous conditions on Lake Garda. Babbage scored two bullets in the day's three races and now leads the final series, followed by McKnight. Joe Turner's aspirations for a world title come to an abrupt end due to an unfortunate crash at the first weather mark of the first race.
It might have taken four days for Lake Garda's famous afternoon breeze to come but it was surely worth the wait, every single moment of it. The 125 Moths took to the waters off Campione del Garda under fabulous conditions. The 'Ora' kicked in on time, blew up to 15-16 knots and brought the beast of the Moths that were piercing through the short chop. The race committee was able to hold three spectacular races with the best breeze yet.
The fleet has now been split into Gold and Silver and as Scott Babbage mentioned earlier in the morning, competition has stepped up a level as he has to face twice as many top boats as in the qualifying series. However that doesn't seem to prevent him from scoring two bullets.
The first race of the Gold fleet had three protagonists, all of them Australians. Scott Babbage and Joshua McKnight clearly dominated in conditions that are slowly approaching the ones they are used to in Sydney, even if Babbage still finds them 'pretty light'. The two sparring partners were a long way in front of the fleet with McKnight leading three quarters of the way. However, Babbage was faster downwind and crossed the finish line ahead.
Joe Turner, the third Australian, stole the spotlight in that first race but, unfortunately, for the wrong reason. While going on the top reach to the distance marker he lost control of his boat and pitchpoled right in front of fellow countryman John Harris. Harris had no time or room to react and crashed into him. As a result, Turner's boat suffered serious damage that, although repairable, puts an abrupt end to his aspirations to the world title.
Although he likes the strong breeze, Babbage did equally well, or even better, in the softening conditions of the second race. He led from the outset and extended his cushion over second-placed Anthony Kotoun to dozens of boatlengths at the second weather mark. There was nothing Kotoun could do to bridge the gap but still held on to his position, crossing the finish line ahead of Rob Gough and Joshua McKnight.
In the day's last race Babbage and McKnight inverted their positions with the younger Australian taking the win. It didn't come so easy though. McKnight was in the lead at the first top mark but Babbage got him at the bottom mark. Still, McKnight was again faster upwind and overtook him.
Three more races are scheduled for both of the fleets on Saturday, starting again at 2pm local time. As the weather patterns are converging to the usual ones on Lake Garda this time of the year, we could very well witness another day of champagne sailing for the Moths.
Scott Babbage (AUS): 'Josh and I have been sailing a lot in Sydney this winter. He has been my training partner during the off season. I think we have done a bit too much and he now is a threat. When the wind is up a little bit we are much, much faster. The stronger it gets the faster we will be but this is still pretty light.'
Joshua McKnight (AUS): 'I was leading the first race by a long way but Scott got me on the downwinds, he seems to be little quicker downwind. I had a tough one at the first race. I was eighth or ninth at the bottom mark but still managed to climb to fourth at the top mark. It was a good day overall and a good start to the finals. '
Joe Turner (AUS), on his crash: 'In the first top mark of the first race I was going across the top reach to the distance marker and I basically lost control of the boat when I was just above John Harris and put it straight in ahead of him. He basically had nowhere to go, no room or time to keep clear and ran into me. It was my fault. I was sailing too high, lost control of the boat and pitchpoled in front of him. It is unfortunate it happened, when and where it did. The regatta is basically over for me and hopefully another Australian will win it.'
Final Series - Top 10 results after three races (one discard) and qualifying rank
1. Scott Babbage (AUS), 1+1+1+(2)=3 2. Joshua McKnight (AUS), 2+2+(4)+1=5 3. Anthony Kotoun (ISV), 4+3+2+(10)=9 4. Bora Gulari (USA), 3+5+(11)+3=11 5. Rob Gough (AUS), 12+4+3+(5)=19 6. Julian Salter (AUS), 8+(9)+6+7=21 7. Andrew McDougall (AUS), 7+7+(12)+8=22 8. Chris Rashley (GBR), 5+(12)+9+11=25 9. Jason Paul Belben (GBR), 9+13+5+(22)=27 10. Brad Funk(USA), 18+6+(10)+4=28