On day six of the Zhik Nautica Moth World Championship, the young Australian sailor overtook Scott Babbage thanks to three excellent races. Babbage paid the price of an average start and wrong tactical call in the first race, where he finished 16th. With three more races to go on Sunday and just two points separating McKnight and Babbage, the 2012 Zhik Nautica Moth World Championship is still wide open! Could it be more exciting than that?
To say that Saturday's racing was a tricky one and full of surprises and upsets would be the week's biggest understatement. The first and most decisive race of the day turned the tables and saw some of the leaders with scores in the teens, twenties or even thirties! It is clear that consistency and committing the least amount of errors are the keys in this regatta and that's exactly what McKnight has shown all week.
The overcast skies and lower temperatures meant that Lake Garda's afternoon wind, Ora, wouldn't be as steady as in the previous days, especially with a start one hour earlier than Friday. The right side of the course, as close to the rocks as possible, always paid handsomely this week but this was the one and only race where it wouldn't.
The left turned out to be so favored that Brad Funk, the US sailor that saw it coming, would be ahead by a mile. When the trailing boats on the right saw it and went to the left, the breeze died and turned right. Some of the top ten sailors – Babbage, Kotoun, Salter and McDougall – got the double whammy 'right when it's left and left when it's right', rounding the first top mark well in the bottom of the fleet. Babbage managed to climb up to 16th but McKnight had yet another consistent race, finishing fourth.
As the breeze got fresher and steadier, the second race would be 'about boat speed, without a lot of tricks', as Anthony Kotoun stated. The sailor from the British Virgin Islands nailed his start, got off to the rocks and was able to build an immense lead at the first top mark. Bora Gulari couldn't do anything to catch up with Kotoun and crossed the finish line in second place, ahead of Julian Salter and Joshua McKnight. It surely was a turnaround for Kotoun after scoring a 33rd in the previous race.
The day's final race was again a demonstration of flawless sailing by Joshua McKnight. He got the start right with full pace and rounded the first weather mark in second place, trailing Julian Salter. McKnight has shown his strength upwind all week long and overtook Salter in the second beat. Once again, Anthony Kotoun kept his calm, weaved through the fleet and bagged another second place.
The 2012 Zhik Nautica Moth Worlds will come to an end tomorrow Sunday after the three final races are sailed. A violent storm is forecast over Lake Garda on Saturday night that could result in a strong 'Pelèr' northerly breeze on Sunday morning and an extremely light 'Ora' in the afternoon. As a result, the race committee has decided to bring the start time forward to 10am.
Joshua McKnight (AUS): 'I don't know whether I’m leading, I'm not sure about the results. In any case, Scott it still the favorite to win this regatta, I'm just trying to sail well and get some solid results. My aim is to be at the top five in each race and I've been working hard to achieve that. At the first top mark of the first race I was probably seventh or eighth or even deeper but since it was quite choppy quite a few around me fell in the first downwind. I sailed more conservatively and finished the race in second place.'
Joshua McKnight (AUS), on whether Scott Babbage should be training with him from Monday: '[Laughs] Whatever happens in this world championship we will always be equal. However, you should never forget we still have another three races to go, so we still have a long way to go.'
Scott Babbage (AUS): 'In the first race I didn't get off the start line well. Then the breeze went really light at the top mark and I was just on the layline with lots of boats. I couldn't get around the top foiling, so I was deep in the pack, without really many opportunities to get through the fleet. So, I had a really bad one and then probably a fifth and another fifth. Joshua might have passed me in the leaderboard with his three good results.'
Scott Babbage (AUS), on whether he learned something today that will not be repeated tomorrow: 'I haven’t quite figured that out yet.'
Final Series - Top 10 results after six races (one discard) and qualifying rank
1. Joshua McKnight (AUS), 2+2+(4)+1+2+4+1=12 2 Scott Babbage (AUS), 1+1+1+2+(16)+5+4=14 3. Anthony Kotoun (ISV), 4+3+2+10+(33)+1+2=22 4. Bora Gulari (USA), 3+5+(11)+3+8+2+8=29 5. Julian Salter (AUS), 8+9+6+7+(38)+3+7=40 6. Brad Funk(USA), 18+6+(10)+4+1+8+5=42 7. Rob Gough (AUS), 12+4+3+5+(11)+10+10=44 8. Andrew McDougall (AUS), 7+7+12+8+7+(34)+3=44 9. Eric Aakhus (USA), 17+8+(15)+6+10+6+11=58 10. Chris Rashley (GBR), 5+12+9+11+13+9+(20)=59