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Fast tracking American success
Interview by Scuttlebutt - Photos by Thierry Martinez
(August 18, 2009) American Bora Gulari figures it was about 26 months ago when he first got into the International Moth class, and today he is the World Champion of this most unique foiling boat.
Considering that the class depth exists in Europe and Australia, and that the first North American event was only in February 2008, Bora helps us understand how he has quickly conquered the class from his home base of Bayview Yacht Club on the Detroit River:
You have made some trips to Australia for training. How important were they in understanding the boat?
I have made two trips to Australia in the last two years. They were important as I was able to focus only on sailing my Moth for extended periods of time without distractions. I was also able to make friends and training partners with the fastest Moth sailors in the world. It was not glamorous, mainly sleeping on the floor in the basement of Andrew McDougall’s house but it allowed me to go sailing at one of the most challenging venues that I have been at for Moths - Black Rock Yacht Club. It is f’ing awesome when the sea breeze is up.
The U.S. had a decent showing at the Worlds. What has contributed to the country's rise in the class?
That is easy. It all comes down to one person in my mind, Charlie McKee. About a year and a half ago when I made the first trip to Coronado, CA for the Pacific Coast Championship, he pretty much laid down the “Plan”. All of the U.S. sailors share everything. We figure things out with each other and get together to check in at prescribed intervals to see how everyone is going. I think Charlie is just such a good leader he can get anyone to do anything.
For someone thinking about getting into the class, what should they be prepared for?
They should be prepared for being on the steep part of the learning curve for the better part of a year. I love being a newbie and learning new stuff every time I go out. Some other sailors might not enjoy that as much. I have heard other people tell me “that they don’t want to get a Moth because it looks too hard” or something like that. That is BS. I think some people might be scared of appearing that they are out of control. I am barely in control most of the time and love it. Anyone can sail a Moth and now that Worlds are over it is time to get my dad on my boat.
Describe the Worlds sailing conditions and what attributes were needed to succeed?
The conditions were what I consider typical Cascade Locks, 15-25 knots with flat water, lots of shifts, and very tactical. Since you could come nowhere close to 1 or 2 tack beats, I think having confidence in one’s boat handling and being able to chase a shift was very important.
Conquering the final 10% of anything is always a challenge. For the Moth, what was the last aspect for you that gave you the opportunity to successfully compete for the Worlds?
Having a good training partner was what gave me the ability to get the last 10%. Without George Peet I would never have gotten there. Since he is a professional sailor he would disappear for a couple weeks at a time, but during this time I would tinker and change things on my boat. If I felt like I’d gone in a good direction he would come back and confirm it. Then I would do the same to his boat so we kept making incremental improvements to our boat speed. I can’t tell you how impressed I am with George and I did not win the World Championship … George and I won it together.
What equipment have you used along the way?
Initially I had a Bladerider, but three months ago I purchased a new Mach2 and that is the boat I am sailing now. For masts, CST came out with the reduced diameter masts last year and I bought a couple and have been using them ever since. For sails I have only used KA sails since I got into the class, and am very happy with how long they last. I actually used my practice sail for my race sail in both the U.S. Nationals and Worlds; I think they become faster with age. For sailing gear, I use Zhik - the weight versus warmth is awesome - and for gloves I use exclusively Atlas Fit latex gloves that I buy at the hardware store.
What remains on your 2009 schedule?
I have the Beneteau 36.7 Nationals where I am sailing with my long time mentor, Phillip O’Niel, and then the Melges 24 Worlds and all the regatta’s leading up to it with good friend Simon Strauss. There will be a lot of Moth training too because the Dubai Worlds are coming up fast and I have no intention of giving back the trophy.
You have been putting in a lot of Moth training time. Is it time to go back to work now, and if so, what would that be?
Yes it is time to go back to work; I work for my father at Biodiscovery-llc where we manufacture microarrays. Lucky for me he is the reason I am a sailor, and when the wind blows he knows what I am doing.
Explain the translation of your first name.
I think it is very fitting as I love strong winds. I am a naturalized US citizen born in Turkey, and the Bora in Turkey is much like the mistral is in France. My name fits me and gives me confidence; I think my parents were very wise. Here is the explanation from the US Navy’s weather site:
"The bora of the Aegean Sea is a cold, north to northeast katabatic wind flowing from the Balkans Peninsula and the mountains of western Turkey, through the Vardar and Dardenelles gaps and finally into the Aegean Sea (similar to Bora - Adriatic Sea). The flow is confined to the Aegean Sea by the Rhodope mountain range to the north of the Aegean Sea, the Boz Daglar to the east and the Pindus mountains to the west. As the flow moves south, it is channeled and its direction changes to northwesterly flow. The gale-force Bora--Aegean Sea can also be produced when high pressure over the Balkans interacts with a low moving across Crete, south of the Aegean Sea."
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