A fact that slightly astonished me when I heard it earlier in the year is that to be a top-flight International Moth sailor, the requirement is that you need to be at least 88kg. That’s nearly 14 stone in old money and it spun my head. In the days of the low-rider fraternity on Lymington River (what a great scene that was), the sailors were shall we say, on the lighter side. They were balletic barefooted nymphs shorn of middle-aged spread dancing from wing to wing as the Moths went ever-lighter, more refined, see-through even on the bows. They were glorious works of art to me. Still are. Blank canvases painted in bright colours with technology and latest thinking. Amazing beasts. Hours were spent just looking at the detailing of wing-sectioned masts that actually rotated, mylar coverings, wire-thin control systems and monocoque framing.
But today, with the foilers we’re talking something completely different and the sheer power that these boats are generating have pushed up the athlete weight requirement stratospherically and to such a level where now the top ex-Finn or Laser sailors can be highly competitive. The Finn is dead, long live the Moth. And as a perfect example of this, who was out yesterday in the absolute deep-freeze of the winter solstice at the British Sailing Centre in Weymouth? Well none other than Giles Scott getting in some foiling, capsizing, spilling and thrilling (barefoot as well) whilst the rest of us looked out the window and went: “too cold” – chapeau to Giles.
A quick Google search of athlete weights, presumably taken ahead of Olympic competition puts Giles at 97kg and Tom Slingsby at 83kg – for the former I suspect he’s come off that peak and for the latter I rather suspect he’s above – but I find it remarkable how the Moth game has gone on and the power that these things are generating. Weight is actually being added up loft to increase power which is counter-intuitive to my understanding (I wasn’t very good at physics at school) and the attention to detail all round is something that the America’s Cup boys would be very proud of.
I spent some useful hours last night reading the McDougall McConaghy website (HERE) and in particular looking at their new Mach 2.6 design brief and to be quite honest I was gobsmacked, blown away and utterly enthused at what these guys are doing. Go to that website but prepare to come away feeling every inch of poverty but inspired beyond reasonable belief and accepted norms. It’s phenomenal.
The Mach boat-builder is the go-to for Moths and it’s astonishing what’s being achieved there. The dreadnought bow is now ubiquitous and achingly cool, the foils are so refined to be worthy of a place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the control systems are a thing of childhood wonderland, the carbon detailing on the wand is space-race compliant, the wingbars and tramps exude a beauty only seen on the catwalks of Milan and Rome whilst the haute couture aloft, depending on whether you go Doyle or North, is akin to a creation from an atelier on the Left Bank of the Seine with Yves Saint-Laurent in residence – in his prime.
These things are beauty untold. Their genesis from the now agricultural Bladeriders (I still think they’re the height of cool) echo the low-riders of the past as they pushed the boundaries without the carbon-works of today’s modern boat-building practices. It’s a relentless evolution in the Moths and deep pockets are required to keep up year after year with the trends whilst only the very best sailors of our time have the capability to sail and win at the highest level. What Andrew McDougall (AMAC) is creating, alongside other great boatbuilders all around the world, is something in comparison to the Renaissance artists or the great sculptors like Giacommetti, Bourdelle or Rodin. They are taking a platform of the past and creating for the future. It’s incredible to see.
And the sailors are responding. They are bigger, fitter, faster, more powerful than ever before in the class. Tom Slingsby set the marker in 2021 and only Kyle Langford could better him in one race at the worlds. Paul Goodison is training hard down in Italy. Foiling Week 2022 at Malcesine, now granted World Sailing Special Event status, will most probably be notable for not who turns up but who doesn’t. The racing will be hotter than July and you have to think that Slingsby’s feat just can’t be repeated again. Can it?
The Moth scene is the voyeurs dream. You look in and your head is spun. Everywhere you look it’s sailing from another planet. For the vast majority, it’s a scene that has passed us by but it’s fascinating nonetheless. Tell me you don’t stop to look at your local dinghy park when a Moth is unveiled from its covers. You can’t help yourself. But it’s an unobtainable fantasy of youth. The low-rider feels more manageable, we kid ourselves, and second-hand they are going for a song – keep me away from those websites over Christmas – for a revenge purchase is just itching to happen. The nightmare before Christmas.
Moths are a flame in themselves – deeply attractive and alluring creatures that latch onto your fibres and eat holes in your wallet. The stand-out boat of recent generations. Whatever next? For sure, they’ll find it. Can you imagine what a Moth looks like in 10 years’ time? If you can, you’ll be a rich man…