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The utterly brilliant Foiling SuMoth Challenge

by Mark Jardine 28 Jun 12:00 BST
Hattie Rogers sailing the Southampton University Team foiling Moth 'Moonshots' © Stephen Boyd

"Make no mistake, the future of our sport is in the hands of young people like this. For all the fancy words and hearty proclamations by many in our sport, it's the people who are actually practically doing something that really matter and make a difference. The SuMoth teams around the world - they stretch from the UK to Italy and Canada - are on the ragged edge of design and sustainability and it is an endlessly fascinating project to witness." Magnus Wheatley, Rule 69 Blog

The Foiling SuMoth Challenge is a competition inspired by the need of a more sustainable and efficient sailboat designs and manufacturing methods.

The ultimate goal of this competition is to promote sustainable practices by challenging young naval architecture and engineering students in a friendly, technical, and sportive competition.

The 2022 Foiling SuMoth Challenge is taking place during Foiling Week at Fraglia Vela Malcesine, Lake Garda, Italy from June 30th to July 3rd.

Ten teams, representing five countries, with over 200 students are taking part, and as Magnus said above, this competition really is the cutting-edge of sustainability in design with the next generation of superstar designers and sailors who will influence the future of our sport.

I talked to Louis Huchet, Finlay Middlemiss, Ed Gilbert and Hattie Rogers of the Southampton University Team at the official naming of their boat (see video of the naming ceremony on YouTube here), before Hattie then had a trial sail and the team travelled down to Lake Garda for Foiling Week...

Mark Jardine: First of all, this is a university project, but what was it that grabbed you, to build a Moth?

Louis Huchet: The first bit was about the SuMoth challenge; it's only three years old. I think the whole marine industry is trying to move forward to be more sustainable, especially within sailing. They are reviewing methods and trying new naturally-sourced materials like flax fibres. I think it is a good idea to launch this competition in Lake Garda. Doing it in one year with just six students was a challenge. I think we tackled it pretty well, with thanks to a lot of sponsors of course. We are very happy, and can't wait to see the other boats from other universities.

Mark: Regarding the hull construction, what can you tell me about what it is made of, and why?

Finlay Middlemiss: For the skin we used flax fibres, and inside the hull is mostly PET core, though for the foredeck and V-shaped bulkheads we used cork core. The PET core is made from recycled plastic bottles, and the cork core is made from the bark of trees. We used two different bio-resins from Matrix Composites to infuse it.

Mark: These natural materials are great, and I've seen a lot about bio-resins at METS, plus in the Moth fleet it's not difficult to get hold of parts from older boats, which is another method of recycling.

Ed Gilbert: It's been a good opportunity. We've had a close relationship with Maguire, and have used second-hand parts they have supplied, which would otherwise go into landfill.

Mark: Hattie, you were in Milan for The Foiling Awards and so you know Luca Rizzotti [founder of Foiling Week] fairly well. I'm guessing having this challenge really set a goal for the project?

Hattie Rogers: It was interesting because we had to be very clear with what was the university work and what was SuMoth work. We tried to keep our objectives fairly university-related; we had a really good lecturer say to us after our first presentation, "Will you get a degree if you don't get the boat to the challenge?" So being very clear helped, but we are all competitive and want to win the challenge!

Mark: This may be a question with a very obvious answer - are you looking forward to sailing it?

Hattie: Oh yes! I've never actually sailed a Moth, so sailing a sustainable one for my first time will be interesting. It's going to be different to sailing the foiling WASZP for sure, especially with the tiller extension going round the back in gybes and tacks. It may even be a touch easier because you get that height from the foils and more glide time for manoeuvres. I am so looking forward to it; we are going out on Friday for the first sail. The team will all be there, with the supervisors.

Mark: Talking of tillers, these bent spruce wings really do remind me of a Contessa tiller - there's a huge family connection here with your grandfather and uncle building those yachts! That is beautiful.

Hattie: We thought about the different methods we could use, and as this project is supported by Jeremy Rogers Ltd we thought we'd bring that in. The tapering has worked really nicely; although it is very traditional it was easy to complete.

Mark: A beautiful touch - it's looking fantastic!

You can watch a video the Southampton University Team put together about the construction of Moonshots on YouTube here.

As you can see from the photos (and this video on Instagram), the first sail was a success, and we wish the Southampton University Team all the best in the Foiling SuMoth Challenge. As Louis said, the team are looking forward to seeing what the other university teams have made.

Luca Rizzotti, founder of Foiling Week, which is now in its ninth year, told us what the Foiling SuMoth Challenge means to him, "The Sumoth Challenge was conceived to demonstrate that sustainability and performance can go together, generating a new industry approach. To see so many industry leading companies cooperating with the Sumoth teams is the ultimate achievement: on one side being a test bed for sustainable technology developments, on the other providing a platform for students to upskill and engaging with the Marine Industry."

Foiling Week is again going to be the melting pot where theories, innovations, construction methods and styles are mixed together, and the result will be all those attending, and Foiling SuMoth Challenge entrants, come back wiser and energised to continue in their paths in the marine industry. These students will, and in many ways already are, shaping the future of our sport.

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

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