Olympian Helena Scutt's Moth World Championships experience

Olympian Helena Scutt's Moth World Championships experience

29-year-old Helena Scutt is a force to be reckoned with, on and off the water. The Olympian runs a busy schedule, spending her working hours as a mechanical engineer at Synapse Product Development, a product development consultancy, where she enjoys the variety of projects that comes with consulting and can exercise her love for problem-solving and making concepts come to life. On the weekends she is almost always on the water, having found her groove atop the foiling Moth and recently competing in the Moth World Championships this past September. 

After competing in the 49erFX women’s skiff at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and then campaigning in the foiling Nacra 17 catamaran for 18 months, Helena said that, “stopping that pursuit left a big hole in me that in some way I am still trying to fill, because I love sailing and that intensity so much.”

The Moth is a one-person, foiling dinghy and it is regarded as one of the most competitive sailing classes in the world, “99% of my sailing career has been in double-handed boats as a crew, so it has been really fun to be foiling, skippering, and back on a super steep learning curve. Sailing solo has been refreshing and pushed me to develop certain skills. It’s awesome to have a boat that is equally fun whether you’re racing or simply going sailing. The Moth was the perfect boat to put the fun back into sailing for me. There is no feeling like making a foiling tack or gybe.”

With a full-time work schedule, Scutt trained just about every weekend from January until shipping her boat to Worlds in August. “Compartmentalizing my life (instead of having one all-encompassing goal) is still a little weird to me, and I think that’s natural for anyone who is deeply driven and loves to challenge themselves.”

In September, Helena competed in her first Moth World Championship, in Malcesine (Lake Garda), Italy, finishing 80th overall and the 4th woman. Her worst races (discards) were the first two of the regatta which speaks to her improvement throughout the event. Overall, she was thrilled to compete and is excited to train hard for the next Worlds where her goal is to be in the Gold fleet (top half) and come out as the Women’s World Champion. Right on Helena! Here is her account of the event:

Even just comparing the first and second days of the qualifying series, I averaged almost 14 places better each race on the second day as I figured out starting in a big fleet, some nuances of the racecourse, and improved tactical decisions. I was so happy to be back racing in a big fleet again, it was such an awesome feeling. For the most part, racing skills that I feel like I haven’t used since Olympic campaigning came flooding back to me, “like riding a bike”. The regatta was split into two fleets so we had 71 boats on the course at once which made the starts intense.

The level of the fleet is so high, it’s impressive and inspiring. My gains will come from improving boat-handling (especially tacks), starts, and getting equipment better suited for a range of conditions. I’m really pleased with how much my starts improved during the event, because by the end I was getting clean starts at the pin. Moth starting is very different, even from other high-performance boats like the skiffs and Nacra17, because everyone is foiling and reaching down the line in a high-speed train well before the starting gun.

The Moth remains a developmental boat (loose rules allow for equipment innovation) and the class continues to push sailing forward, as Scutt describes;

"Lately most of the developments have been about reducing aero drag. It’s wild to think that just four years ago boats were going 16-17 knots upwind and now they’re doing 21-22 knots upwind (and 30+ knots downwind). I think Moths are the coolest boats on the planet, and the boats are so compelling and fun to sail that the Olympic and America’s Cup heroes make time in their schedules to train and race Moths, meaning that international events are a bunch of obsessed weekend-warriors lining up against some of the biggest names in sailing. It’s such a fun, genuine, helpful group, and I can’t wait to see how good we can get over the years together.”

The US Moth class, and particularly the West Coast group, held a Zoom debrief open to all US Moth sailors to maximize the lessons from the event and build a plan to best prepare us for the next Worlds;

"Despite all my training over the spring and summer, I must keep in mind that most of the sailors at the top of the fleet have been sailing Moths for the better part of a decade, and I have only done one season. The next Worlds is in Argentina in November 2022. We could have strong breeze and short, steep chop, so we’re looking forward to some Berkeley Circle training for that!”

In addition to serving on the Advisory Committee for the St Francis Sailing Foundation Scutt was recently elected Vice President of the International US Moth Class. At Moth Worlds, there have historically only been a handful of women, even in a regatta of 200+ boats. Out of 142 competitors at Worlds, 12 (8%) were women, which was a record-breaking year. Scutt is determined to increase women’s participation and success in the Moth because not only does it mean that more women sailors are enjoying the Moth, but also because representation matters in all niches of the athletic and professional worlds – especially in an international class as highly regarded as the Moth.

“The Moth is at the cutting-edge of sailing, and I want women to have the opportunity to be a bigger part of that!”

Helena looks forward to hosting Intro-to-Foiling clinics in the Moth and the Waszp in the coming year, to get more Moth sailors, and particularly women, introduced to the class. 

[If you are an intermediate or advanced sailor & are interested in participating in a foiling clinic reach out to us at hello@somand.com]

Some of the changes the class has already made:

  • The prizes include the top 3 women at Worlds, not just top 1.
  • All Worlds and Europeans events must host a Women’s Moth clinic before the event, and we are organizing more camps outside of those events, too.
  • Pink Moth logo stickers available for all competitors to put on their boats to show support for women in the Moth class.
  • A women’s Moth Whatsapp group to stay in touch.

And it’s just the beginning!

Helena can’t wait to put what she’s learned into practice and keep training hard. Her inspiration to keep motivated and competing comes from all corners, from athletes in other sports such as Allyson Felix, Simone Biles, Kate Courtney, Alexi Pappas, Tia-Clair Toomey, as well as from friends and family;

“I’m inspired by my friends who double as Moth training partners (shoutout to Richard, Brooks, Dan, and Riley!), my coworkers, and my friends who are still Olympic campaigning. Also, I’m inspired by anyone who chases audacious goals and is true to themselves and kind to others along the way. Be brave, not perfect."

"I am so grateful to Sømand and to the St. Francis Sailing Foundation for its support of my racing at the 2021 Moth World Championships. Thank you!”

[If you are an intermediate or advanced sailor & are interested in participating in a foiling clinic reach out to us at hello@somand.com]

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