DUBAI // Kerstin Sommer is taking part in her first Moth World Championship this week and, as the UAE's only female Moth sailor, hopes to put on a good show. "I've been sailing a Moth for about one-and-a-half years and at this competition I'm hoping to get some valuable experience that I can take with me into future events," she said.
The Moth, a lightweight, single-handed boat, can reach extreme speeds thanks to its hydrofoil, which allows the boat to rise out of the water in windy conditions reducing friction from the surface of the water. With upwards of 50 boats expected to contest each race in the week-long event from tomorrow, Sommer knows she faces a tough challenge. "There will be a lot of boats in the water and it could feel quite chaotic, but it will be a good learning curve for me," she said.
There are just three female sailors competing in the World Championship, which, this year, is sponsored by Puma. Sommer, originally from Germany, is joined by Lindsey Bergan of the US, who is ranked 32nd in the world, and Sweden's Emma Aspington. "Sailing in general probably has more men than women taking part, but in the Moth Class that is especially true," said Sommer. "I probably don't go as fast as some of the men do, especially in very high winds, but the speed of the boat and the fact that you are there on your own, is a very appealing factor to me."
Like most Moth sailors, Sommer is not new to the sailing. She sailed in Germany, and competed in the J24 Class, a 25ft yacht that is sailed by three to five people. She has also sailed dinghies. "When I came to Dubai I wanted to carry on my hobby but I didn't want to sail Lasers. The trouble is that I am very light-weight and I would have ended up sailing a laser 4.7 with all the kids. "I tried out the Moth and was hooked. It's quite difficult to get the hang of it, but it is very addictive and once you are bitten it is hard to resist," she said. "They are silent in the water, so it's quite fun when you speed past someone else in a different type of boat."
Sommer does not yet take full advantage of the developmental side of sailing a Moth, which allows competitors to tweak their boats to improve performance. "At the moment I haven't got to the stage where I am developing my Moth myself," she said. "I am getting to grips with the features that are there and trying to improve myself and my standard of sailing right now." As sailing a Moth is very physical, Sommer is also running and training in the gym for her challenge.
For someone who has only sailed a Moth for such a short period of time, Sommer knows the World Championship is a big step, but could not resist the challenge. "It was happening on my door step and I thought I would be crazy not to take advantage of that," she added. "The Moth is a fast-growing class, but it's still small enough that you don't need to pre-qualify for this event. It just seemed too good an opportunity to miss. I don't know how much a home advantage will come into play for me, but I'm hoping to do well and learn some new skills and take it from there."