Saturday, January 15, 2011

Why do you sail the moth?

From Chris' blog.

I think the title question is an interesting one. So why do I sail the moth? Unlike the vast majority of current sailors my motivation is rooted in my youth and my college sailing experiences. Yeah, I built and raced International moths in the 70s and back then adopted the ethos of home builder. But that class of ply hulls and box wings (even tho I used a double luff sail)  is way different from the present foilers.

So what is the draw to the foilers and why do I continue to tilt at windmills? Yeah, there's a handful of homebuilders in the US but I seem to be the only guy doing the traveling (not to Dubai or Belmont, but I sailed at Weymouth, Cascade Locks, and Harbor Springs.)

I found a short piece I wrote over three years ago and it still rings true:

"Seduced Again"

Anyone who has sailed long enough has had that experience of  “Wow! This is what it’s all about.”  For some, including me, the experience includes an adrenaline rush brought on by speed and power. Big boats sailors get it, dinghy sailors get it, multi-hull sailors and sailboarders get it.  I’ve had that experience on all of those platforms. I recall the first time the speedo broke double digits during a breezy downhill spinnaker run on the J-33. Of course, included are the numerous times I was whooping with delight on the heavy air broad reaches on my Laser. Or on the canoe, blasting to weather, hiking off the end of the sliding seat. Surely, hitting twenty knots with the weather hull kissing the tops of the waves on a NACRA 5.2. And definitely sailing a short board with the hull seemingly in the air as much as it was in the water as I skipped across the surface of Willoughby Bay. But all of those experiences happened back in my younger days. It’s been almost twenty years since I’ve heard the siren’s song. Six weeks ago she grabbed my attention with a whispered “shussssssssssssh.”
      The occasion was the classic moth nationals in Elizabeth City. After we finished racing on Saturday, Bill Beaver loaned me his foiler Bambi Gets High. Within five minutes, without having to tack once, I was foiling. Actually it would have happened sooner but the wind was in the 8-10 knot range and I needed the slight puff to lift my 175 pounds off the surface. I had read about the moment in numerous moth blogs but until I experienced it I didn’t really understand.  In every other boat I’ve sailed, the faster it went the more noise it made. The crashing through the waves, the splashing of spray and foam, the creaking of the rig, the hum of the board or rudder and the occasional flogging of the sail – these things are the hallmarks of power and speed. Until now. As the Hungry Beaver rose from the water and accelerated, the noise that meant a boat was going fast went away. Silence. Wonder. Amazement. A quiet shusssssssssh as the foils sliced through the Pasquotank River. I was immediately smitten.
    Bill has gotten it right. His foiler was immaculately prepared and constructed so that even I, a 52 year old high school teacher, could scamper aboard and feel in control.  During one sustained puff I was hiking full out off the rack, steering and holding the sheet with one hand as I dangled my other hand down and dragged it through the water, all the while being foil-borne 24 inches above the river. Compared to Bill’s earlier Bambi Meets Thumper, an extremely narrow low-rider, his new boat is forgiving and stable. The large diameter wing longitudinals and the Styrofoam he stuffed in the outer bit of the tramp allowed me to stay hooked in whenever the wind died and threatened to capsize me to weather. At the next puff I just needed a couple of quick pumps on the sheet and I was out of the water and moving smartly. Easier than waterstarting! Bill had told me that the area of the hull around the daggerboard was reinforced so that if I needed to stand on the hull to right it after a capsize, that was where I was to step. I never used that technique. Actually, righting and climbing aboard was much easier than my 1970’s Magnum moth design.
     I’m now committed to having a foiler of my own. With Bill’s and Gui’s assistance, I started on the road to foiling last weekend. I’m working on the blades now and I’ve gotten a quote for a new KA sail and Burvill mast. I hope to start the hull before the holidays. By next spring my seductress will have her way with me.
 Stay tuned.  

So, yeah, it's sort of an addiction, a seduction, an urge that needs a periodic fix. The fact that my boat will probably never win a Gran Prix level regatta is rather irrelevant. In fact, I get the most pleasure just blasting across Willoughby Bay, my local piece of water, and coming ashore tired but satisfied -- even more so if nothing broke or if the latest fix seemed to be an improvement. 

Come this spring I'll be using my fourth mainfoil (finally breaking down and buying a M2 centreboard) and my second rudder (and of course, contemplating making a third rudder that will be even longer and stiffer.) I'm staying with my 4-year old KA sail and fat mast for the short term, so there's no garage built wing in the near future, but who knows? 

I'm envious of those with the top of the line kit, but am happy with my home-built seductress.

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