The US Moth National Championship returned once again to the Upper Keys Sailing Club in sunny Key Largo, Florida, this time bearing the “Ladd Lewis Memorial Regatta” name, in honor of the late Ladd Lewis, the legendary supporter of the club and big fan of the moth fleet. As usual this event capped off the winter moth series in Florida, plus, this time the event also marked the jump off point for the shipping container going to Bermuda for the Worlds. When mixed with the usual fun provided by this event, all signs pointed to a good turnout and and great competition.
Sixteen moths (and a few waszps) touched down and got signed up to race. Among the sailors there were two world champions (including Bora Gulari and reigning champ, Paul Goodison), defending national champ Brooks Reed, defending North American champ, Matt Struble, a handful of Americas Cup sailors, olympians, plus a good number of weekend warriors and class newcomers. The best part was that everyone felt welcomed and the relaxed vibe as people unpacked and rigged their moths saw sailors giving each other tips, lending hands and having a few laughs.
Thursday, the day before racing started, was a light wind scorcher. A number of sailors did leave the beach though, for shakedowns, but it was toasty and slow for the most part. Everyone was looking forward to facing off for real the next day.
Friday finally came and with a 1:00 first start, it left time for a large number of late arrivals to show up and get rigged. The breeze was up and a few sailors went out early to tune up. It laid down a bit too much and we ended up with a shore postponement for a few hours. By 2:30, it was up to about 12-14 kts and the RC got us going and cranked out race after race to end up with five on the first day. The first four were generally prime moth conditions and just before the fifth one, a small squall rolled in, jacking breeze up into the mid teens with higher gusts. The fleet held it together for the most part and made it back to the beach in time for happy hour. The racing was ultra competitive all day with three different boats claiming bullets over the five races (Goodison, Struble and Gulari) and by the end of the day, Goodison sat in first followed by Struble and then Gulari.
Day two was simply a champagne day. With warm sun, perfect 12ish knots of breeze and a noon start, the RC was able to crank out six awesome races and again it was competitive up and down the fleet with Goodison and Struble both claiming bullets on the day and eight different boats making appearances in the top five. When the dust settled on day two, Goodison (exocet) remained in first, still followed by Struble (mach2) and Volvo Ocean Race / Oracle Racing vet, Rome Kirby (exocet) moved up into third with Anthony Kotoun (mach2) and Bora Gulari (exocet) rounding out the top five.
That evening it was discovered that the a rather large snafu with the shipping container to Bermuda, scheduled to load up the next day, had been uncovered. In short, the container was no longer going to be an option for getting the moths to Bermuda in time for worlds racing. Two separate new shipping plans were formed and unfortunately one of the plans meant that six of the boats were going to be missing the final day of racing so that they could be transported up the coast to NJ to meet a new ship to make the jump to Bermuda.
Sunday morning, the remaining racers arrived to a bay full of whitecaps. It was a big breeze morning and hopes were mixed among the fleet with some hoping it would lay down and others hoping it held up until the 11:00 am start. Those hoping it would lay down got their wish and by race time, it was a beautiful 11-12 knots with BIG shifts, puffs and lulls arranged all over the course. Though there were fewer boats racing, the racing itself was just as exciting, with tons of lead changes and “it’s never over” type of theme with boats making big gains and taking big losses in the shifty conditions. Kotoun and Struble each took home some bullets on the day.
Eventually it was time to wrap things up and when the final scores were tallied, Matt Struble (San Diego, CA) won overall in his Mach2, followed by Anthony Kotoun (Newport, RI) (also Mach2) and Paul Goodison (GBR) landed in 3rd in his Exocet. Brooks Reed (San Francisco, CA) (Mach2) and Rome Kirby (Newport, RI) (exocet) rounded out the top five. Struble was given the traditional double shot of tequila as his first place award with Kotoun taking home a “silver bullet” Coors Light and Reed accepting a bronze-ish Yuengling (as the third American finisher). Awards were given out by Ladd Lewis’ wife Brenda, who is instrumental in supporting this event year after year.
(All photos are courtesy of Sarah Miller Kahler)