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Henri-Lloyd 2022 December - SW LEADERBOARD

Young Mothies at Malcesine

by Guy Nowell 11 Jul 2022 21:09 PDT 30 June - 03 July 2022
Nicolai Jacobsen, Foiling Week 2022 © Martina Orsini / Foiling Week

Foiling Week at the Fraglia Vela Malcesine has quickly become a major event in the sailing calendar. Apart from the fact that Lake Garda is a great place to go sailing (or foiling), this is an occasion that embraces ‘everything foiling’ from racing (Moths, Waszps, ETF26, OneFly, Wingfoil) to foiling try-outs, foiling forums, a foiling film festival, the SuMoth (Sustainable Moth) Challenge, and lots of socialising. It’s a whole ‘foiling festival’ in its own right, and is rated as a WS Special Event.

And there were other foilers there, even if they weren’t racing: a couple of Persico 69Fs, an FD Switch, and the double-handed ‘foiling for everyone’ Peacoq.

68 Moths were competing, and the calibre of competition at the top end of the fleet was pretty intense, which is to be expected, with Paul Goodison, Dylan Fletcher, Mattias Coutts, and Ruggero Tita hitting the starts hard and fast. A special mention, therefore, to Nicolai Jacobsen (HKG) flying the flag for RHKYC who finished 2nd overall in the fleet, just 7 points behind Dylan Fletcher (Gold medal, 49er, Tokyo 2020), 4 points in front of Mattias Coutts, and 5 ahead of three-times Moth World Champion and Laser Gold medallist (Qingdao 2008) Paul Goodison. In last month’s UK Nationals he finished fourth in a 51-boat field, just behind Fletcher. Is there a pattern here?

If there’s someone to watch right now, it’s Jacobsen. In 2018 he was Waszp European Champion at the ripe old age of 16. He placed third in the Liberty Bitcoin Moth Cup / Foiling Week in July last year, and he won the pre-Worlds in September, beating a field that included Tom Slingsby, Nathan Outteridge, Francesco Bruni and a whole host of sailing giants…. “You can’t have too much fitness,” says Jacobsen. “Look at how sailing has changed in the last 10 years… at the sharp end it has become more and more athletic, and more and more demanding. High speeds demand fast decision making. Three races a day are exhausting, and if you are under-prepared for an event like this, you know it on day one!”

There was just one race on the last day of the regatta, and we spoke to few people in the boat park before they went afloat. It was cooking hot at 10.00am; the morning ‘Peler’ breeze had been and gone, and the ‘Ora’ was yet to arrive. Garda was flat and glassy.

When you start talking to these sailors about their regatta, they tell you about two things – the ‘aero’ and the foils. There’s a whole set of design parameters in play today that didn’t exist five minutes ago. Once upon a time a fast boat was to do with minimum weight, minimum wetted surface area, ability to plane, big sails, and then hang on with your teeth. Now that the boats are no longer in the water, the aerodynamics are more important than the hydrodynamics, as long as there is enough breeze to get the thing out of the water in a heartbeat. A very niche market in Moth building just a couple of years ago has now expanded hugely - Mach2, Bieker, Exocet, Aerocet, Thinnair, and more. Minimum weight in the wings is not necessarily the goal any longer because a little weight helps heel the vessel and its rig to windward (just like a windsurfer), and at the same time it’s possible to generate lift off the wings, so it’s not only about reducing drag…

Paul Goodison is competing with a Bieker, but admits that he started the regatta “on the wrong foils. When I fixed that, everything got better, but it was too late by then.” He likes the atmosphere at Foiling Week. “Malcesine is just so buzzy,” he says. “Buzzy with new ideas, and new faces. It’s great to see a whole new sailing generation here, young people like Nicolai, and Mattias Coutts, who have grown up with foiling, and are busy giving the old guard a run for their money!”

Dylan Fletcher is at the top of the leaderboard. I wonder, how do you spot the shift when you are tearing across the water in excess of 25 knots? “You just get used to it,” he says. “Upwind we’ve been sailing at 18-20 knots this week. Last year we were sailing higher, to minimise drag, but now the newer designs (Fletcher sails an Aerocet) let us sail lower and faster – in short, there are more modes available. Dylan is parked next to Jacobsen in the boat park, and the two have been out on the water together over the past few days, and with coach Chris Rashley. “Nicolai has had a fantastic regatta,” he says. “He is very open to new ideas, which makes him coachable, and he has a great work ethic. But he also knows how to enjoy his sailing – which is pretty important.”

The youngest sailor in the boat park is Mattias Coutts (16), making Jacobsen (19) look almost old. Dylan Fletcher is the same age as both of them combined. Coutts is already a World Champion (O’Pen Skiff, 2017) and a NZ National Champion (29er, 2020), and started sailing Waszps at age 11 and Moths at 13. If foiling-sailing were a religion, the mantra would be ‘start ‘em young’.

Next up: Moth Europeans. Quiberon, France, 23-30 July. With strong breeze off the Atlantic, this could be a pretty electric event. 90 registrations from 12 countries. Put your money on the young fellers.

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