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From Thai boxer to Moth sailor: We speak to Kyle Stoneham

by Mark Jardine 21 Jun 2017 13:00 BST 21 June 2017
Kyle Stoneham on day 4 of the UK International Moth Nationals at Paignton © Mark Jardine / IMCA UK

Kyle Stoneham is one of the real characters on the International Moth circuit. Having recently sold his business, Kyle is able to spend more time on his foiling sailing, so we caught up with him to find out about his route into sailing, his motivations, other sports he's taken part in, and his aspirations for the 2017 season and beyond.

Mark Jardine: When did you first start sailing and what type of sailing was it?

Kyle Stoneham: My first sailing was cruising around the Thames Estuary on my dad's Hobie cat, often nipping over to Kent for a cheeky beer when I probably shouldn't have! Then I bought my own Dart 15 (now called a Sprint 15) and was doing the same sort of thing. My first experience of racing was on a Hurricane 5.9 SX, crewing for a guy at my local yacht club at an open meeting, and I got hooked from there really on the competitive side of things. I then started racing my Dart 15 - I was a third of the age of the average in the fleet, but it was good fun - especially when it was windy.

Mark: So your initial sailing was all about fun in a boat?

Kyle: Absolutely! Everything that I do starts with it being fun; the serious and competitive side comes along when you get a bit more involved. If the fun was taken away from whatever I'm doing then I find it very difficult to stay fully committed to it.

Mark: You've taken part in a variety of other sports, ranging from parkour mountain biking to Thai boxing. Was that all about the fun too or was it about the training as well?

Kyle: Any sport like that, which is an individual sport which you do around other people, you thrive on the other people who are doing it and you get to know them very well. It's a lot of fun but you push each other along and find yourselves competing with each other just trying to improve as a group. With the bikes and the Thai boxing you're pushing each other along and encouraging other people to come and do it also. I really like that type of environment, which is exactly what we've got in the Moth class.

Mark: Do you find in a development class such as the Moth where you're going out and trying new things, that if you do it as a group the development is much faster?

Kyle: I've learnt so much this year from just talking to people at the front of the fleet and just the small tweaks that they've learnt, which they're happy to pass on to you, push you forward. Anytime someone new comes into the fleet we have a look over their boat and if there's something that we see that's not quite right, we always point it out and try to help them sort it. That ethos in the class is helping everyone to improve, right the way through the fleet.

Mark: When you originally came into the Moth class you were intending it to be a stop-gap until you bought your next catamaran. What was it about the Moth that made you decide to stay in the class?

Kyle: With my double-handed cat sailing, most of my crews were on the South coast, and being an East coast sailor it was pretty difficult to do any training. If I was going to sail a fast single-handed cat the choice was the A Class Cat, which at the time was a little bit compromised downwind, so I decided to give the Moth a go. As soon as I got foiling and it went silent, that was it: I was addicted. When I saw how fast people around me could go it just pushed me into wanting to go further and further in the class. When you do get to the front it's a great feeling.

Mark: The Moth class has a really good social scene, with the fleet staying together off the water in the evenings at events. Do you enjoy that aspect of sailing as well?

Kyle: Off the water it's been fantastic, especially during the Nationals at Paignton. Every time we go to a venue that's a bit further afield than the Solent area we tend to stay close to the venue and we find we spend a lot more time together as a fleet. Paignton Sailing Club were really friendly towards the class, putting on meals which really helped keep everyone together.

Mark: You're now sailing the Moth full-time and looking to do professional sailing on boats such as the GC32s. Do you think the Moth is the perfect platform to push yourself onto those circuits?

Kyle: I feel the development in the Moth, and learning how to tune the boat in the different conditions, is really relevant. You have so much different kit and you have to understand how everything works together. I don't know if the way you sail the Moth would be that transferable to a GC32, but I feel I have that from my catamaran sailing, but having the foiling experience, knowing how a foiler can accelerate and what you can and cannot do when you're on the foils is very transferable. Sailing a Moth definitely gives you that experience.

Mark: What are your targets for the rest of the season in the boat?

Kyle: I really wanted to finish in the top three at the Nationals. I didn't do that, but it was pretty tricky conditions and I did complete every race. I'm heading to Lake Garda on the 1st July for a month, culminating in the World Championship there. Ideally I want to aim for a top ten in the Worlds; it's going to be ultra-competitive but it's nice to have a high target, and if you don't aim high it's unlikely that you'll achieve anything good.

Mark: Best of luck for the Worlds and I really hope you hit your targets and continue to have fun on the boat!

Kyle: Thank you Mark, I definitely will have fun!