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Life of Pye: Moth champ on runaway win, learning from Russell Coutts

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Jake Pye can’t quite put his finger on the reason for his runaway success at the Moth national championships.

It could be the long hours on the water in recent weeks or spending time with some of the best sailors from across the ditch at the start of the year. 

It also doesn’t hurt having occasional coaching sessions from Kiwi sailing royalty, Pye admits.

The 17-year-old Auckland schoolboy dominated the 2023 New Zealand International Moth national championships at Wakatipu in late February, winning 13 of 18 races against a fleet that included a handful of Australian sailors as well as Swiss SailGP driver Sebastien Schneiter.

“I am very proud of my performance. It was a long and tiring event because we had three days of training and then four days of racing and we were all pretty exhausted by the last day,” Pye said.

“It was great to have some guys over from Australia plus a few others as it increased our regular fleet size and strengthened the competition.”

Jake Pye won by 33 points at the NZ Moth nationals at Wakatipu Yacht Club. Photos / Aidan Gordon Media

Jake Pye won by 33 points at the NZ Moth nationals at Wakatipu Yacht Club. Photos / Aidan Gordon Media

Pye's win follows an impressive third place at the 2023 IMCA Australia Championships in January.

“I think it comes down to a combination of many things as the moth is such a complex boat,” Pye said when asked what he attributed his recent stellar form to.

“I have been putting in the hours on and off the water and in Australia, there was really great competition and I got to know those guys and learnt how they try to make these boats go fast.”

He triumphed by a mammoth 33 points in Queenstown with Manly Sailing Club teammate Mattias Coutts second and Schneiter third.

Mattias is the son of SailGP boss, five-time America’s Cup winner and Olympic gold medallist Sir Russell Coutts.

Russell Coutts is also a former commodore at Manly and has been helping some of the young talent at the club.

“Obviously, Russell is very busy with Sail GP but he still manages to find time to organise events and coach us when he can and he seems to know a few things about foiling boats,” Pye joked.

"Russell is one of my role models and he has been very supportive. We are extremely fortunate to have him mentoring and coaching us at the club from time to time - even if  many of the younger kids don’t know of his sailing past.”

Pye has been sailing the Moth for just over two years after cutting his teeth in the Starling and O’pen Bic before a few years in the 29er and Waszp.

"I like the speed of the Moth and the fact it's not a one-design boat, so people are continually coming up with new ideas to improve performance and make them go even faster. I'm really interested in the foiling evolution,” he said.

And while he has joined the wingfoiling fan club, mastering the Moth remains his immediate focus.

“There is still so much to learn. The International Moth Worlds in Weymouth, England in June will be an awesome experience. There are more than 150 entries, so a few more than what we are used to!”