Sunday, March 6, 2011

Gulfport Mid-Winter Regatta, Part II

For those not familiar with the Classic Moth Boat, I should mention that this class of racing dinghy is a "development" class rather than a strict "one design" class.  That means that there is a certain amount of freedom in terms of hull design.  Basically the limitations are that the hull can not be longer than eleven feet or wider than 5 feet.  The hull without removable equipment must weigh a minimum of 75 lb with the weight evenly distributed though out the hull.  Additionally there are a few more rules limiting concavities in the hull aft of the leading part of the dagger board slot and no wings or hiking devises extending beyond the sheer of the boat are permitted.  Beyond that designers and builders are free to use their imaginations with the intent of the class to produce ever faster boats.  The class got it's start in 1929 and 82 years of development does not defy one's expectations:  the newer designs are clearly faster than the older boats.  So, as in the case of vintage automobile racing, we have developed performance brackets for both new and ancient Moth Boats.  Boats which were designed and constructed prior to 1953 are termed "vintage" division Moths.  Vintage Moths are a restoration-only bracket.  This means you have to start with a surviving boat and restore it.  The intent is to get beautiful old Moths out of barns and sheds where they decay and back on the race course where they belong.  The other two brackets of Classic Moths are termed "Generation I and Generation II" Classics.  Boats in either Classic division can either be restored survivors from the late 50s through early 70s or new construction to either existing plans or a totally new design which meets the class rules.  Basically with Classic Moths if your design drops into the rule box it's legal.  New designs are evaluated and assigned to either Gen I or II on the basis of their performance.  So if you wake up in the middle of the night with a hot idea you can jump out of bed, race down to the garage, cobble her up and at the next regatta you'll find out if you big idea is hot or not.

Another concept that 82 years of development doesn't defy is the notion that speed comes at the expense of stability.  One of our better builders and racers, Joe Bousquet, best summed up the Moth racer's dilemma: "fast boats are like fast women; both can be terribly exciting at times but neither one is particularly wholesome."  This is one of the reasons why not every Moth Boater is sailing the hottest, fastest design.  Not everyone has the temperament or boat  handling skills to keep up with the most extreme examples of race boat. Gen II Moths are not all that pleasant to sail. Like thoroughbred horses or F1 race cars, they are no compromise racing machines.

How tippy are the Gen II boats you ask?  Basically these boats have such limited static stability that if you let go of the boat at the dock it will capsize.  While stability is a relative term in Moth Boat racing circles, the Generation I Classic designs typically have generous enough water lines and amounts of wetted surface to be more user friendly than the Gen II boats.  One of the appealing aspects of all this design diversity is that there is a design which appeals to almost any normal sized youth or adult sailor with reasonable boat handling skills.  With this introduction in mind let's take a look at a few examples of Gen I and Gen II boats.  Photo credits: Amy Linton, Amy Parker, Len Parker, Bob Patterson and Elisabeth Albaugh.

Two  photos of Bob Patterson's Gen II  Duflos design.  This boat was designed by Benoit Duflos and combines a sharp stem and round bilge with very narrow waterlines.  The Duflos is fast but challenging to build and sail.
Here is an example of the Mistral design.   Local sail maker Rod Koch is in the hot seat of Tony Kruse's Mistral. The Mistral is Derek Chester's successful attempt to capture Benoit Duflos' elegant design in a format that can be built by amateurs from flat ply panels using a stitch and glue construction technique.  Many of the boats in the Gen II division are the Mistral design.
This is a Skol design Moth.  Although it looks like the Duflos and Mistral from this view, the stern hull sections are quite different.  If anything, the Skol is more unforgiving than the either of the former pair of designs!  Opinions are divided as to whether or not it's any faster.  This one belongs to Charleston, SC racer Randall Swan.

These two photos of Moth nr 102 show current Classic Moth Boat Champion Jeff Linton in his Mousetrap design.  The Mousetrap is based on the Mistral skin panels but incorporates the transom shape from the Generation I Europe design.  This is Jeff's attempt to find a sweet spot between the speed of the Duflos/Mistral designs and the stability and good sea keeping characteristics of the Europe.  The second photo shows our Champion enjoying a brewski in between races.  Jeff once said "if your boat's outta beer, you're on the wrong boat."
This is a nice bow on shot of Derek Dudinsky's Mousetrap with Derek attempting to relax in between races.  When this boat is being sailed flat on her lines, there's not much boat in the water.
OK, now let's look at a few Generation I designs.

First up is this year's Gen I Mid-Winter Champ Rod Mincher in his Maser design.  The name Maser is a contraction of Moth and Laser, i.e. a moth made from a laser.  Basically to build this boat one takes a dead Laser hull, guts it, bobs the nose and takes a cut out of the center of the boat.  The remaining bow and stern sections are then rejoined, reducing the original 13 foot long Laser to the regulation 11 feet of a Moth Boat.  The hull in then bulkheaded and redecked.  The Maser is a good, competitive Gen I shape and is fairly stable by Moth standards.  Rod routinely beats squirrelier Gen II boats in his Maser which goes to show that it's not all about the boat--the sailor still counts.
Greg Duncan's CAROLINA HYBRID is another attempt to find that sweet spot that lies somewhere between speed and comfort.
Lewis Hay's Europe has retained her original flat fore deck and unstayed or "free standing" mast.  The Europe is also a Gen I boat.

New member Patrick Burger created this Moth by cutting off the first eleven feet from a larger Fireball class dinghy.  Although the boat was slow in this year's light air and choppy conditions, with a bit of refinement this shape could be fast in big breezes and flat water.  I will stop here since the blog site is giving me problems and finish up tomorrow with a few more Gulfport photos.

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