North Sails LOFT NEWS

VICTORY AT THE 2020 NEW ZEALAND MOTH NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS

A Look Into The Winning Combination

North Sails Photo: James Tomlinson

A bit of teamwork and North Sails 3Di technology proved to be a winning combination for Auckland sailor Graeme Sutherland at the 2020 Moth national championships — sailed just days before the nationwide lockdown took effect. 

Sutherland, who finished top Kiwi at the Moth world championship in Perth in December, sailed a strong and consistent series over two days out of the Sandspit Yacht Club north of Auckland, to finish clear ahead of Olympic bronze medalist Sam Meech.

“The final results probably make it look easier than it actually was,” says Sutherland, who dropped a second and an eighth placing to finish with a perfect scorecard. 

The development class regatta was held in Sutherland’s home waters of Kawau Bay, which he says provided ideal conditions and plenty of open water. There were almost twice as many entries for the regatta than for the 2019 nationals, with 22 entrants, including young up-and-coming sailors such as George Gautrey and Nick Egnot-Johnson.

The first day’s racing was light and shifty, with some up-and-down performances, and Sutherland was tied for the lead with Stu Goodes after four races. However, on the second day, Goodes was knocked out of the regatta after breaking a spreader, and Sutherland found himself having to stay in front of Meech to take the title.

These three sailors were the top three Kiwis at last year’s worlds, and Sutherland says they have worked together to raise their performance. All three sailors have worked with the North Sails One Design team, led by Derek Scott, to optimise their 3Di sails for their New Zealand-built Bieker Moths.

“We decided to get the same gear and work as a squad, all using the same boat, rig and sail, and try to play off each other to improve,” Sutherland says. “It’s a hard class for sailmakers to keep up with, as things change so much. There’s always a bit of last-minute development, and before the worlds we managed to go into the North loft and do some small modifications to the sail and deck-sweeper area.

“After the worlds we went back into the loft and made a couple more minor tweaks, so coming into the nationals we were all on the same page and up with the latest developments.”

Sutherland says the sail he is currently using has increased depth in the luff curve, which allows him to power up a lot more, especially in light conditions and downwind.

The big question now is whether the next worlds, scheduled for Weymouth, England, in September 2020 will go ahead. The New Zealand nationals were held under the increasing threat of Covid-19, which saw the country move to alert level 2 on the Saturday of the regatta. 

“It was good that we got the regatta done in time, but it was a pretty close thing,” Sutherland says. 

Also managing to complete its nationals series before Covid lockdown was the Flying 15 class, hosted by the Onerahi and Marsden yacht clubs in Northland. Finishing third overall, and securing a spot at the next Flying 15 world championships, scheduled to be held in Fremantle in February 2021, was the new pairing of Napier sailors Nathan Percy and Scott Pedersen. 

Both are also keen Paper Tiger sailors, with Pedersen normally sailing with Nathan’s brother Hayden, a former Paper Tiger national champion. However, after Hayden was injured, Nathan stepped into the helmsman’s role in the Flying 15. Despite their lack of experience together, they won one race and chalked up four second placings in the nine-race series.

Derek Scott of North Sails One Design says using a new set of North Sails, including a radial-cut mainsail developed by North Sails UK, was key to Percy and Pedersen’s success. 

“Having not really sailed the boat together before, they still managed to be absolutely on the pace and also pick up some top placings,” he says.