As a development class, the International Moth has been a hotbed of foiling innovations over the past few years. Matthew Sheahan reports on a new accessible one-design version
If there is one class of boat that has turned more heads around the world in the last decade than any other, it must surely be the foiling Moth. Having started as more of a stunt than anything more serious, there is now no other way to race a Moth.
Fleets worldwide have grown and the experts make foiling look effortless, yet the reality is that mastering the Moth is even more difficult than carve gybing a windsurfer. Yet there is no doubt that the combination of speed, silence and extraordinary looks has been, and continues to be, a big draw.
With so few rules, the International Moth – as opposed to the ironing board-shaped British Moth – has always been at the leading edge of design and development. Famous for its laissez-faire approach, it has just a few simple rules that have resulted in some of the most radical thinking in the sport.
But not everyone is able or willing to play. For some, the pace of development got too hot when hull shapes became little more than a plank on edge. A boat that would only float the right way up if you were moving and required the balance of a cat on a fence from the helmsman was a challenge too far for many sailors.
But as we now know, there was another big hike in performance to come as the Moth took to foils. Once again, some found this a step too far, though plenty rose to the challenge and helped to create a completely new style of racing. Those who have learned to foil have left the rest of us green with envy.
One design Moth
But a new design of Moth might change all that as the long-awaited WASZP goes on sale. Conceived five years ago by Andrew McDougall, designer of the MACH2 Moth, the idea was to make a foiling Moth not only cheaper, but easier to sail.
So while the WASZP is based on the foiling Moth and conforms to the few class rules that there are, it differs fundamentally in that it is a strict one-design. But it has other advantages for the less daring.
For starters, the wings provide sufficient buoyancy to keep the boat the right way up when stopped, and they are also adjustable to allow you to alter the angle by which they rise towards their tips – technically called dihedral.
Setting the wings flatter, that is with less dihedral, is like lowering the stabilisers on a child’s bike. The outboard ends of the wings touch the water and support you before things go pear-shaped.
Looking like a pro
As you get more proficient at keeping the kind of balance that unicyclists take for granted, you increase the dihedral to allow you to sail the boat heeled to windward.
At this point the daggerboard T-foil is hauling you to windward while you look like a pro.
Furthermore, the mast is unstayed, making it simpler to rig and, with no shrouds to act as giant cheese wires, considerably safer when you do take a tumble. The main foil and rudder lift like conventional daggerboards so it’s easier to get on and off the beach.
Fully fledged Moths have a fixed daggerboard and rudder, which are fitted when the boat is on its side, leaving you to swim out into deeper water with the boat in tow like a dog with a stick before you can right it and sail away. The reverse process is required when coming ashore.
Clearly, this is not for everyone. With delicate, expensive carbon foils, you want to get this right from the start. Few do.
The WASZP, however, has foils that can not only be lowered progressively once you’re under way, like a Laser, but are made of alloy with injection-moulded tips, making them far more robust.
Worth the wait
The hull is an epoxy, glass, carbon-infused composite so it is tough, but light, weighing 48kg including foils. And although that’s around 18kg heavier than a modern Moth, the WASZP is the same weight as the RS Aero, which I know from experience is light enough to carry down to the water.
And then there’s the cost. At around US$10,000 (£7,550) it is said to be half the price of a fully tricked MACH2.
The project has been a long time coming, but now it’s here with a fleet racing at the recent Foiling Week held on Lake Garda there’s a buzz going around that it was well worth the wait.