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How high is too high?

by Mark Jardine 14 Jun 12:00 BST
Brad Funk flying high while Simon Hiscocks watches on Day 3 of the 2022 Wetsuit Outlet UK Moth Class Nationals at the WPNSA © Mark Jardine / IMCA UK

Inflation, the cost of living, energy and travel costs are all weighing heavily on people's minds around the world. Sailing is in no way insulated from the problems in the world at the moment, and the supply chain issues and transportation costs are all contributing to rising costs for both new boats and competing at events.

This could be a perfect storm for sailing, but there are chinks of light and opportunities to sail more often and cheaply. Even with the stratospheric prices of the latest designs of foiling Moths, it's possible now to get into this ultra-high performance dinghy class at a lower entry-point that just a couple of years ago. Does this seem like a contradiction? Read on...

Certain essential goods are taken into account when calculating the rate of inflation, and talk to any Moth sailor and they will regard their boat as essential. It's a way of life and as Brad Funk said so beautifully on Sunday, they're 'stimulating for heart, mind and soul'.

There is concern within the class at the rising price of a new boat, in particular the latest generation designs which are pushing speeds, technology and materials to a new level, but take a look at the second-hand boats available and you'll see that a very decent Mach 2, Rocket or Exocet will set you back less than before, and comparable to that of other new foiling dinghies.

The Moth, being effectively a box rule, is inherently a cutting-edge machine, and without any kind of cost cap, the desire to go faster will only be limited by the budget of the sailor. And wow, do the new designs go fast. Hitting 21 knots upwind and the mid-30s downwind in an eleven-foot boat is incredible. At the UK Moth Nationals the entire length of Portland Harbour was in use for the two-lap courses, but the leaders were still finishing in 16 minutes.

But won't these new designs make the existing fleet obsolete? Everyone who has invested their hard-earned cash suddenly has to ditch their boat and get a new one? Talking to the sailors the answer is no. Unless you're at the very top of the sport the boat isn't going to be the limiting factor as to where you finish in the fleet.

Sailing a Moth and getting it foiling is challenging, but possible for most club sailors. Then tacking and gybing in lowriding mode is the next stop, followed by getting around a race course. Once you're at this point in most wind conditions, it's all about mastering foiling tacks and gybes, then doing as many as you can in a race situation.

At the Moth UK Nationals the level of technical skill in the fleet was incredibly high. Not just the top sailors who count Olympic medallists, World Champions and Europeans Champions in their midst, but all the way to the tailenders. What is known as Grand Prix finishing (counting those who are a lap behind in the results after the leader has finished) was hardly used, which meant nearly all the sailors completed two laps in each race. Given that it was a sixteen-race series this was impressive to say the least!

But to get the best out of the boat, even if you're using previous generation designs, you need to be sailing at the very top of your game. You need to know how to trim the foils best, set your ride height, get the sail setup right, adjust quickly between the upwind and downwind setup, all while sailing in a tight fleet and avoiding the boats. The standard is high, but the sailor is the limiting factor in nearly every case. The Moth sailors will freely admit this, and I think it's one of the many reasons you see so many smiling faces in the dinghy park; they all love their boat.

For sure there are admiring eyes when a new design is on show, and everyone wanted to see the brand-new Aerocet and Xploder designs take on the Bieker Moth, but the feeling was appreciation rather than envy.

Hang on though, aren't increasing speed of new designs and the fleet finishing closer together in races directly contradictory? Yes, we've mentioned that the overall standard of sailing has improved, but surely this doesn't explain the full story.

The explanation is upgrades. Sails, foils and controls are all evolving, and providing some startling improvements to existing boats. The new Maguire mainfoil vertical had tongues wagging last week, foil horizontals are getting smaller and more refined, and decksweeper mainsails have also made a big difference. The whole fleet is faster, and in some cases these upgrades make the boats more controllable as well.

The Moth class are far from alone in having increasing costs, as Dougal Henshall documented so well in 'What price in taking the P...', which also brings up the increased longevity of modern, high-end construction methods. The Moths aren't limited in the same way some of the development one-design classes are, by use of materials, which does mean the sky's the limit on the high modulus carbon in use - but does result in incredibly stiff hulls.

At the end of the day, those who can afford new boats will keep the stock and newer designs trickling down the fleet, and each sailor will choose the price point they are willing to buy in to. After all, many people decide to spend their hard-earned money on the latest car or bike. Why not go overboard on a Moth?

The boats are incredible, the fun factor is off the chart, and the fleet is the best on the planet. At the Moth World Championships you'll get to sail against the very best Olympians, SailGP and America's Cup stars.

You can get into the class, and you can learn to sail a Moth. If you're on the fence, then go talk to any of the fleet and they'll tell you all about it. They are the best ambassadors for foiling, and sailing in general, and before they even say a word about it, their smile will say it all.

Mark Jardine
Sail-World.com and YachtsandYachting.com Managing Editor

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