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Moth Worlds 2021: Nicolai Jacobsen and the hairy goal

by Guy Nowell, Sail-World Asia 4 Sep 06:46 PDT 2-7 September 2021
Nicolai Jacobsen. Redoro Frantoi Veneti Moth World Championships 2021 © Martina Orsini

We've been talking to Nicolai Jacobsen again, and he doesn't stop at two syllables. "Yes I got a confidence boost from winning the Moth Pre-Worlds.

Yes it was only four races and three to count, but it was part of the learning curve – mixing it up with the big guys. Until just a couple of months ago, my goal was to get into the top 20 at the Worlds. This was a tough but still reachable goal I thought. Then, in July after the podium at Foiling Week I decided to aim even higher; my goal became and still is top 10 in this Moth World Championship. It’s aiming high - I’m very lucky to be here and it is a fantastic privilege to race against the sailing legends out there. And there are a lot of them! Getting into the top 10 is a hairy goal!”

Qualifications are over: after six races over two days, Nicolai finished 18th overall (7,8,7,13,9,11), and now races in the Gold fleet. Today is a lay day, and everyone is trying to bank some energy before three long days ahead. The Moth Worlds consists of up to 18 races. So far, six races have been sailed, so over the next three days there will be up to four races every day for a total of 12 more races. It's a proper marathon – and starting tomorrow all the best sailors are racing in the same fleet in every race. It’s going to be incredibly close and challenging racing.

Jacobsen says, “let me reflect a bit over the last two days. The first day was good. I was up there, although missing top results. I made some simple mistakes which cost me top 5 finishes. The second day of racing yesterday was more frustrating. I scored 13, 9 and 11. First of all, no excuses. It’s about piecing every regatta together with as few mistakes as possible. The start and getting a clear lane after the start is the key to a good race result”.

“So far I have been too conservative in the start, trying hard to avoid any black flags in the qualifying series. We get two discards in the regatta, meaning that ideally you want to save these for the Gold fleet racing. With the conditions being a bit stronger than what we had during the pre-worlds, I have not had the boat speed to get me out of trouble in the starts. At 71kg I am on the lighter end of the Mothy spectrum, meaning that I struggle more with boat speed in the breeze vs the heavier guys.”

With six respectable scores under his belt from the qualifying series, Jacobsen can now afford to push the starts a little harder. Hopefully this will give him better lanes up to the shoreline, to windward. “I’m hoping for some lighter breeze as well, to make my boat speed more competitive against the top guys. Top 10 is still within reach, but only if I sail at my very best over the next three days. 12 more races to go, now in the Gold fleet!”

Clearly, Jacobsen is punching above his weight in one of the most star-studded World Championship fleets that we have seen in a while. For sure, he has had the benefit of some uninterrupted time in the Moth while a number of the other competitors have been distracted by such sideshows as the America’s Cup and SailGP, but still… After Malcesine Foiling Week, Tom Slingsby said, “he’s only 19. I wish I were 19.” Which brings me to P J O’Rourke: “Age and guile beat youth, innocence, and a bad haircut…” and then the innocents grow up. Watch this space.

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