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Interview with Chris Rashley: Staying at the cutting edge of Moth sailing

by Mark Jardine 1 Feb 2016 11:31 GMT 1 February 2016
Chris Rashley wins the 2015 International Moth UK Nationals © Mark Jardine

We talked to Chris Rashley, current International Moth UK Champion and second at the recently held Amlin Moth event in Bermuda, about his International Moth sailing, what route he took to get into the class and how he works with his equipment providers to keep his kit at the cutting edge.

Mark Jardine: Chris, can you first tell me about the Amlin Bermuda event and your rivalry with Robert Greenhalgh?

Chris Rashley: It was a great opportunity for the Moth class and myself to go out to Bermuda and race in the waters that the America's Cup is going to be sailed in. It's a fantastic place to go sailing in, probably the best sailing that I've ever had, and the weather wasn't even perfect that week so I think it's got a lot more to offer.

Rob has done extremely well this year; he's beaten me at the Europeans and in Bermuda. I'd say that on the whole he's been sailing well - I probably sailed a little better than him at the Europeans but I wasn't quite going fast enough on the last day and in Bermuda we were tit-for-tat the whole week and he delivered well on the last day.

MJ: It seems that you've got the edge in the high winds and he's quicker in the mid-range. Have you identified any of the reasons behind that?

CR: Yes, I've done a lot of practice in high winds, I enjoy sailing in high winds. I think you've got to be realistic in a regatta in that you're not going to race in big winds every day so obviously I need to practice in those conditions a little bit more and refine my equipment a little bit more. I think Rob has focused a lot more of his campaign on being fast in that light to medium wind range because we generally do a lot more racing in those conditions and obviously I need to step it up and improve in those conditions.

MJ: MJ: In the high winds you're putting some serious loads on the boat and I know you've got a bit of a reputation for destroying blocks. You work closely with partner Allen Brothers - what have they done recently to help you with the high loads that you encounter?

CR: I started working with Allen a good few years ago and when I broke stuff I just sent it back to them, had a little conversation, and we asked the question why it had broken. Some of the times it was my fault for attaching things incorrectly or using blocks in applications that were completely unsuitable and I've learnt my lesson from that so I'm generally now referring to the working loads and the breaking loads of the blocks before putting them in those applications. But some of the blocks simply weren't strong enough so I gave the feedback to them and they said, "Well we'll have to design something".

So recently we've been breaking a lot of blocks on the vang because the vang loads are going through the roof, and there was pretty much no block on the market that was able to withstand those sorts of loads, so Allen said that they were happy to make a high load block and they made an extreme high load 30mm block which I've been using on my vang system for about the last 6-8 weeks and it hasn't worn, it hasn't broken and is working just like the day I put it on there. I'm kind of over the moon really!

MJ: With the upgrades you're thinking about implementing on your Moth, I notice that Rob has taken off his compression struts from the wings. Is this something that you'll be looking to do on your boat?

CR: For me, the Europeans and Bermuda were the opportunities for me to get out racing, for racing practice and for the Worlds in Japan I'll be implementing a lot of the development work that's gone on behind the scenes but I haven't had time to do. Those events were stepping stones towards the Worlds. I've won all the major championships apart from the Worlds, so for me it's all about the World Championship. I think I'll potentially try taking the struts off, but there's not a huge gain there - there are better gains to be made in other areas.

MJ: Also I know that quite a few changes have been made to the foil packages lately, what are you looking to do on that side of things?

CR: It was kind of a popular thing to fix the tips on the foils, to stop them moving and reduce the drag, the tips don't move particularly well on the very end due to flex in the flap, but mainly for me it's about getting the engine (sail) right and we've got a lot of work to do over the next few months but I think we've got a sail out on the market which is very competitive at the moment and Paul Goodison was going extremely well with it, as was I in Bermuda, but we need to work on generating more power.

MJ: So you're talking about the Lennon sail that you're using and Mike Lennon, the designer. On generating more power are you talking across the wind range or specifically in the sub 15 knots area?

CR: We've built a sail that goes extremely well above 14 knots and we've got the standard production sail which goes through the full range of conditions, but for us it's about generating a sail which can be flatter and fuller, so making a sail with a slightly larger range in it still, so generating more power in the light winds and we can flatten it more in the medium range, working towards a sail that does everything better.

MJ: Looking forward to the 2016 World Championships in Japan, what conditions are you expecting out there?

CR: I have done a bit of research, and it was handy that they had the Japanese Moth Nationals at the venue at the same time of year, so we've had an opportunity to see the pictures, the videos and talk to some of the guys who did the event. So we've got a bit of information but we've mainly been told that it's a light to medium range venue and that we could have quite shifty conditions off the land and also some quite wavy conditions if it comes from the sea.

MJ: Apart from your Moth sailing, what else have you got in your 2016 calendar?

CR: Between now and the Worlds I'm pretty much flat-out developing and working on equipment. I've got some work to do back at home on another sailing project and after the Worlds I'm hoping to have an opportunity to do some more sailing, hopefully some professional sailing.

MJ: Any classes in particular for the professional sailing?

CR: From the day I started sailing I did it because it's fun, so for me it's going to have to be a class that I would enjoy sailing, so something like a GC32 or potentially the M32 for the match racing, so I'm very keen to sail high-performance boats and I'm also keen to get back into catamaran sailing and stay as much as I can in foiling boats.

MJ: There seems to be a huge crossover with the crew of the big catamaran classes that are sailing and the International Moth class. Do you think the foiling Moth is the perfect platform for gaining experience and the kind of knowledge you need for the big foiling catamarans?

CR: If you learn to sail in a big, heavy boat you get very little feedback from it. I learnt to sail in a Spitfire, which was my first catamaran, and it gave you a lot of feedback - at 16 feet long it's very twitchy and when I came to sail the Tornado I didn't get the same feedback, so if I hadn't had the experience in the twitchier, lighter, more responsive boats, the boats that bite when you get it wrong, you won't know how to sail the bigger boat fast and on the edge. The Moth is the only foiling boat out there now that really gives you that feedback - as soon as you step in it, when you get it wrong you get wet and when you get it right you go faster and win races - I think it's very hard to beat. When you're trying to hone your skills and learn foiling and understand it, then I think the Moth is the only boat out there that teaches you from the grass-roots level.

MJ: Lastly, looking at the 2016 Worlds, who are you expecting to be your main competition?

CR: It's difficult to say who'll be the main competition because anyone could turn up with a new idea that could really work and also anyone could turn up with an idea that works and then breaks, so it's really hard to tell. In the Moth class it's all about cutting-edge, making those small gains and also getting through the regatta. There are going to be people there with some quite funky equipment that might be fast, but they've got to get it through the regatta in a wide range of conditions.

That said, I would say that if some of the America's Cup sailors, such as Pete (Burling) and Nathan (Outteridge) turn up, as well as Scott (Babbage) and Josh (McKnight), then I'd imagine that they'd be the ones to beat. Rob I'd think is feeling very confident in his campaign, but I've had some experience sailing at the Sorrento Worlds and realising that we're still a way off being able to win a World Championship, but this Winter I'm going to try and up my game significantly so I can put myself in a position to win.

MJ: Chris, best of luck with all of the training and everything going towards the Worlds in Japan. I hope it goes well.

CR: Thank you.

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