State of the International Moth Class
Published on September 25th, 2011
Ever since foils were added to the International Moth in 2003, the class has been elevated both literally and figuratively. Growth in the U.S. was flying high for the 2009 CST Composites Moth World Championship in Cascade Locks, Oregon, where 33-year old Bora Gulari became the first American in 33 years to win the title.
Now two years later, Scuttlebutt checked in with class promoters Matt Knowles and Anthony Kotoun who file this report on the State of the Class:
The Moth class in the US is in a good place right now, but we also have work to do. First, our strengths: we have small but growing fleets scattered around the US (mostly Southern California, the Pacific NW, Newport, and Annapolis areas), we have a number of US sailors who have demonstrated that they can compete internationally at the highest level, and we have an even bigger group of dedicated Moth sailors who are doing lots of racing and pushing the development envelope at every turn.
Perhaps the best thing we have is lots of Moth sailors out there just enjoying the foiling experience. The thrill of foiling has attracted many, and the word is spreading! The boat itself is also a strength. A new Moth is a turn-key operation that — with a few hours assembly — can be foiling well straight out of the box. The boats are getting faster, way more reliable, and easier to sail every day.
But we also have challenges. Above all else, we need to increase the rate of growth in our fleets to sustain more local and regional racing. While the fact that the boats are insanely easy to ship around makes traveling a breeze, having more local and regional races will solidify the class. Part of the challenge is convincing folks with older foiling Moths that they should not stay on the sidelines just because they are not riding the latest & greatest. Likewise, we need to continue to pull new people into the class.
Things are going in the right direction. 10 years ago, the US Moth class was dead. Today, it is growing. The challenge for the class now is to keep up the momentum. So how do we get to where we want to go? Here is our three-part plan:
1. The Message: Moths are for you!
In some ways, our success is our problem. Everyone sees the pictures (in this newsletter, on the cover of sailing magazines, and just about everywhere else) of rock star Moth sailors ripping around in exotic venues, testing out wing sails, and so on. This is a cool aspect of the class — but just one part of it. We’ve done a great job of showing people that the Moth is the coolest dinghy around, but now the challenge is to show people it’s the right boat for them. It’s not limited to athletic 20-somethings either; at the 2010 worlds, the winner and runner up were both over 50. Everyone from pro sailors to dentists in Oklahoma are sailing these boats. Check out this interview with a recent convert: http://bit.ly/pfUIjH
Price, of course, is one issue. A new top-of-the-line Moth costs a little over $20,000. Compared to a plastic boat like a Laser, this is a lot of money. But compared to other high performance boats like 49ers, 5o5s, I-14s, F-18 catamarans, a Moth is both cheaper and faster — and, in my opinion, a lot more fun. In 15 knots of wind, a Moth sails upwind at about 15.5 knots and downwind at 23 knots. Unless you go out and buy an AC45, you won’t be seeing those numbers on anything else. There is also far less boat work to do on a Moth compared to any of these boats. We know that price alone won’t stop fleet growth; in England and Australia, for example, there are big local fleets that would rival local Laser fleets in the US.
Now our challenge is to show people that this isn’t just a boat to watch on YouTube and read about in Scuttlebutt, but rather its a class that they should jump into with both feet. The boats are challenging, but sailing them is feasible for anyone with enough skill to get around a course in a Laser on a breezy day. Moths are expensive, but well worth it. There are plenty of used Bladerider moths around, and a few used Mach 2s beginning to pop up for sale. And while some of the best sailors in the world race these boats, there is room for everyone!
2. Manage Development By Emphasis, Not Rule Changes
Now and then you’ll hear some Moth sailor make an argument like this: the boats are great now, so let’s freeze the class into a one design model to build the size of the fleets and reduce costs. This is myopic. The boats are where they are today because of the class embraces full-speed, almost unlimited development. This same development will give us even cooler boats in the future. Our past success should convince us to keep testing, tweaking, and innovating.
That said, development is expensive and can pose a challenge as we try to grow the size of our fleets. For that reason, we should manage development not by making rules limiting what you can do, but rather through an emphasis on racing. The reality is that you won’t win a world championship with a 5-year-old Moth, but realistically, very few of us could win a world championship with ANY Moth — even one with an outboard strapped on the back. You can buy a boat that is a few years old, keep it in good condition, and go out and win regattas. Most of all, you are guaranteed to have a hell of a lot of fun!
Sailing nerds like us are going to continue to be excited about the latest wing sails and foils, but we need to emphasize that this cutting edge stuff is not the heart of the class. Wing sails and new boat designs are cool, but what Moths are really about is great sailing with and against great people in amazing boats. If we keep the focus there, fleet growth will take care of itself.
3. Show Up, Rig Up, and Have Fun
We’re going to continue to push innovative regatta organization so that busy Moth sailors can simply turn up at venues where their boats will be waiting, rig up, and go sailing. Think of this as the non-millionaires version of the Melges 20 and RC44 model: the class will help organize all the details from shipping to storage and race management, and the sailors can show up and race. The fact that we can fit 45 Moths in a 40 foot shipping container makes the economics very reasonable for this sort program.
Likewise, our emphasis will be on “no drama” racing. We don’t need race committees in white pants waving flags and shooting cannons. We’re into short races with innovative course layouts, and low-key professional race management with a clear emphasis on fun, tight racing. No bull&%$, no drama — just tons of great racing in warm, windy venues. (FYI: the 2012 and 2013 Worlds will take place in Lake Garda, Italy and Hawaii, respectively — how can you say no?)
As a first step, we’ll be running a three-stop winter circuit in Miami this winter. Joining the US fleet will be some of the top sailors from Europe as we begin preparations for the 2012 world championship next summer. Stop by and check it out — or better yet, buy a boat so you can come out and play. Miami in the winter, 25 knots of boat speed — yes please!