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Chris Rashley interview

by Mark Jardine 22 Dec 2014 08:46 GMT 22 December 2014

Chris Rashley finished second in the 2014 International Moth World Championship at Hayling Island Sailing Club. We caught up with Chris before he headed out to Australia for the 2015 Worlds at Sorrento.

Mark Jardine: So Chris, coming up to the 2015 International Moth World Championships, how are preparations going?

Chris Rashley: Preparation is good. I've done as much training as I could have done with the time that I've had. I'm quite confident with the equipment that I've selected; with the boat, the sail and the amount of spare kit that I'm taking out with me, so I think the preparation has gone as well as it could have really.

MJ: When are you flying out to Sorrento?

CR: Flying on the 20th (December) and hopefully start sailing on the 23rd or 24th.

MJ: So a good fortnight of local preparations before the World Championships?

CR: I wanted to get the boat out there early to make sure it cleared customs before Christmas so I could start as soon as I wanted. The weather here (UK) is not brilliant at the moment so I wanted to get some time in at the venue.

MJ: You finished as bridesmaid at the 2014 Moth Worlds, what gains and changes have you made to try and go one better?

CR: Obviously it's disappointing to go to an event and finish second and be quite close to winning it, but I kind of over-exceeded my expectations and this time my expectations are probably a little bit higher than they were going into the Hayling worlds. I'd like to think I'll be pushing towards the front of the fleet.

MJ: There's going to be an incredibly strong Australian fleet out in Sorrento, how's it going to be having a smaller British fleet and larger Australian contingent?

CR: The Aussies always come in force wherever they go and they're always strong but I think the training we've got going on in the UK and the quality of sailors we've got has brought our fleet along significantly. I'm certainly not anxious at all about the strong Australians and I'm confident about the work myself and the team around me have put in. Even if I was going there as the only Brit I'd be confident that I'm still going to be mixing it with the best of them.

MJ: It seems the top end of the Moth fleet are really levelling off in standards and it's getting down to the marginal gains you can make on your boat. What changes have you made for the 2015 Worlds that you think will give you that performance advantage?

CR: We've tried a number of things to try and make a significant performance gain and I'd be lying if I said we'd made one, but we have made a number of marginal gains which all add up to being significant performance gains, certainly compared to where we were last year. I can't give the game away now but I'll send you a few pictures before the event starts for the stuff I'll be taking out in my box.

MJ: You've gone through 7 to 8 sail iterations between the 2014 and 2015 championships, what does the development process with Lennon Sails involve?

CR: We did the same thing in the run-up to the 2014 worlds. We sat down, had a meeting about what gains we thought we could make, what was going to be achievable. We got Kevin Ellway to run a lot of CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) on the boat and the rig to see what the potential gains were so that we weren't kidding ourselves at all. Then it's just a matter of proving that concept really; getting the design, understanding the flying shape that we're after and asking Mike to build it. You can never quite get the same result on the sail as on the computer as there are so many variables there, but on the whole I'd say we're getting very close to the computer model.

MJ: Dealing with Mike Lennon, himself a top-end sailor and also a top-end Moth sailor, does that make a big difference in the development process?

CR: Mike is very knowledgeable. He's very quiet, he doesn't like to show off about how much he knows and he sits back at times and lets Kevin and myself go off with the more mad ideas. With the amount of experience he's got, he's very willing to give us a free reign but also telling us the pitfalls of what we're trying to do and possible issues with the route we're thinking of going down. As you say, working with Mike being a top level Moth sailor is a great bench-mark to go sailing against. He's always on pace, looking back to the 2014 Moth Worlds he was definitely the fastest boat there for the majority of the event and just struggled in Gold Fleet.

MJ: Sorrento looks like it's going to be a high wind, flat water venue for the 2015 Worlds, does that affect your preparations at all?

CR: I hope it is! That's what I'm going for really. A lot of the Aussies view me to be a light wind specialist because I seem to do well on the light days - I think the last two worlds have been light, but I can only sail to the conditions that I've got and they haven't seen me in the breeze yet. Hopefully, after the first couple of days, they'll be hiking a bit harder to keep up.

MJ: So you're going to spring a surprise on the Aussies on their home water with your high wind performance?

CR: I'd like to think so. I'm confident that I do a lot of practice and training in the breeze. Just because they haven't seen me sail in the breeze doesn't mean I can't be fast. I'm confident going into this worlds that I can take anyone on in the breeze.

MJ: Outside of Moth sailing, what has the rest of the year involved for you?

CR: My full time job is coaching the podium squad of Charlotte Dobson and Sophie Ainsworth in the 49erFX. The Moth sailing, I like to call it a hobby but it's more like an obsession. The girls will often see me out sailing before or after our training sessions when we're in Weymouth and when we're away I'll be working on developing kit back at home. It's a full programme with as much sailing that I can get in as possible.

MJ: So you try to fit in the Moth sailing around everything that you do?

CR: Yes, I'll be up early in the morning and out until late at night if I can get a good training session in. Generally speaking I'll get about 100 sessions a year in the Moth which will be more than the majority of the sailors. I'm certainly working really hard, probably above my sustainable capacity at the moment, to maximise the amount of sailing I get in the boat. I'm committed to delivering at the Moth worlds and I've got to give it everything.

MJ: If you were going to give advice to somebody coming into the Moth class, what would it be?

CR: Firstly, it'll be the most fun you've ever had in a boat and once you get in you'll probably look at everything else in a slightly different way. Don't be scared that the boat's going to break - save up, spend some money and buy a nice Mach2, Rocket or Exocet, a 2nd hand one to start with as you can pick up a good Mach2 from between £9,000 and £11,000 and about the same for a Rocket - these figures are quite comparable to some other classes. It's important to know that the boats don't just break, they're built very well, a lot of time has been spend on the design and they're all hand-made. A lot of time and consideration has been put into the build, they're now quite refined and very, very useable. I wouldn't quite call it a Laser but I can pull my boat out of the dinghy park 9 times out of 10, go sailing, pack the boat away and go home and I think that's a big change compared to the early days of foiling. You won't have to spend all day in a garage.

MJ: Do you think the misconception about boat breakages came in from the early days of foiling, where everything was experimental?

CR: Absolutely, people used to build these boats in their garages, in their workshops before and after work, it was all so experimental and such big changes and such big gains being made. The materials have changed a lot which makes the newer boats light and strong. The days are kind of over of people building their boats at home, there are still a few people doing it, but buying a production boat is the way forward now.

MJ: I noticed as a regular club sailor, I found the Moth pretty much as easy to sail as a Laser. Do you think people are scared off by the idea of jumping into a Moth and going foiling?

CR: I think from outside it can look like there's some special skill required to get the boat up and foiling, but it is as easy to sail upwind as a Laser and probably easier in some conditions. You jump in, you pull the sails in, you sit on the side, you bear away a bit and it foils. For me that side of it is easy, it's achievable by anyone with a wide age, fitness and skill range. The boats are getting better and better and easier to sail all the time - I don't think anyone should be scared. If you want to get really good at tacking and gybing on the foils and really good at racing you're going to have to put in a year or a couple of years and work really hard, but the fun of it is learning at the end of the day.

MJ: Do you regard the close time-frame of the 2014 and 2015 worlds as an advantage or a disadvantage?

CR: For us I think it makes little difference. We were fortunate we didn't have to ship boats as the last worlds was at home, which saves a few weeks. Also we got to train at the venue for a little bit longer than the people that came over so I'd say that was our advantage. Now we're going to Oz we lose a couple of weeks with the shipment and training at the venue so you'd have to say they've got a slight advantage on that. We dealt with the closeness of the event over a year ago now, how we were going to deal with the development in-between. I was developing my 2015 Worlds sails before the 2014 Worlds event took place so we were very well prepared for the closeness of the events.

MJ: Who do you regard as your main rival at the 2015 Worlds?

CR: I think it's difficult, there's a lot of big names, there's a lot of the America's Cup guys who I imagine will have been putting a lot of time in because they haven't been so busy (not knowing where the 2017 event was going to be held) and that's all changed now. So there's a lot of big names there but I wouldn't necessarily call them rivals until I've been able to race against them. You've got to come back to the on-form people at the time - you've got Pete Burling who's winning everything in the 49er at the moment, I'm fortunate enough to watch him race quite often while I'm coaching in the same environment that he's in so I've watched him race a lot and I'm very impressed with his sailing. He's quite big so if it's a breezy worlds I think he'll be difficult to beat, I don't like to bet against myself but I think if it's breezy he'll be right up there. Nathan Outteridge, the winner of the 2014 Worlds and Olympic Gold Medallist, you can never write him off and I think he's certainly going to be a main competitor. Then it comes down to some of the bigger guys if it's going to be breezy; you've got Tom Slingsby, who I've never raced against but I see at Sail Sydney he's had some good results when the breeze has been up, Scott Babbage has been so consistent at every single Moth Worlds for the past 5 or 6 years now and he obviously wants to win a worlds after he came so close in Garda in 2012 and I think he'll be kicking himself so that'll still be spurring him on. You've got Josh Mcknight, the 2012 Moth Worlds winner, who was also 3rd at Hayling this year - he's very quick in the breeze, a very good sailor and a good friend of mine - he's a dangerous competitor. There's a number of other sailors that you can't rule out, but they're the big players if you ask me.

MJ: Talking of the America's Cup, do you have any aspirations to get involved in one of the teams in the future?

CR: It's something which I would love to be involved in and love to work in that environment. I'm still quite young and relatively inexperienced in terms of managing campaigns but I'm learning quickly. I view my Moth sailing to be an investment in myself and an investment in where I'd like to go in the future - every time I'm up at the crack of dawn or working at midnight, round at Kevin's house or working with Mike or Simon Maguire the builder - I kind of view that as my apprenticeship. Hopefully one day it'll get me involved in a team, I'd obviously like to be sailing on a boat but there are a lot of other good sailors out there, and I think I could be useful in a number of roles within a team.

MJ: With the Moth Ashes this year going to down to the wire and the Brits losing to the Aussies by a single point in the end, what are the chances of winning them in Australia with so few British boats taking part?

CR: It was obviously gutting, disappointing, upsetting, all of the above for not winning The Ashes - it was kind of our chance to win it and we were robbed on the last race, on the last run of the last race, with Andrew McDougall sailing back through the fleet and retaining The Ashes for the Aussies. It was disappointing at the time and not many people speak about the individual results from the worlds, it's more about The Ashes unfortunately back at home. We still hear it every week in the dinghy park so yes, we're not going to forget that one in a while. It was our best chance and going forward into the 2015 Worlds in Sorrento we're going to struggle to say the least to win The Ashes. It is possible as we are sending enough boats, but we're going to need every single boat that we've got with a GBR sail number on it. We've even got a South African guy at Stokes Bay that I'm trying to convince to put a GBR on his sail number because he lives in the UK now, just to boost our chances. It's a little desperate.

MJ: Chris, many thanks for your time, it's great hearing an insight into your Moth campaign and the very best of luck in Sorrento.

CR: Thank you very much.

More information on the McDougall + McConaghy 2015 International Moth World Championship can be found at www.mothworlds.org/sorrento

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