Roll Tacks July 2011

By the time you read this, Steve Cockerill and David Summerville may well have sailed 115 nautical miles in Laser dinghies for their charity fundraising adventure, the Irish Sea challenge.

The route from Dublin to Southport is the same distance as from London to Sheffield, a phenomenal distance on an ocean-going ironing board. Steve and David are using 1970s vintage Lasers, specially refurbished for the big trip. The aim is to raise funds for leading mental health charity mind and the John Merricks Sailing Trust.

If you want to lend your support to the big adventure, go to the website here: www.roostersailing.com/isc/

On the subject of long-distance sailing trips, Pete Barton's 16-mile sail from Lymington to Stokes Bay would hardly bear mention but for the fact that he sailed down the Solent on a very squally,  blustery day in an International Moth. If you've seen a Moth sailing in waves, you'll appreciate the magnitude of this feat. Pete was sailing down in readiness for the National Championships, which this year attracted 54 entries.

Looking at the past 10 years of national championship attendances table on yachtsandyachting.com, this is the first time the Moth has broken the 50+ club. This must surely come down to the appeal of hydrofoiling, combined with the availability of an off-the-shelf option in the Mach 2 hull, foil and rig package. A boat I know better than the Moth, the International 14, always attracted the biggest numbers when there was a ready-made package available for those who just wanted to go sailing, rather than delve into the development side of things.

The Mach 2 cannot be described as a cheap boat. Priced at about US$20,000, the price in GB pounds  had been hovering around the £14,000 mark although now is closer to £12,500, which for 30kg of carbon fibre seems like a lot of money. But that's sort of to miss the point, because it's the very lack of boat that that makes it so fast. How many other £12,500 boats are capable of touching 30 knots?

While the Mach 2 is undeniably the most popular choice in the Moth fleet, Jason Belben's victory at the championships ahead of proven international performers like Swiss sailor Arnaud Psarofaghis and 2010 World Champion Simon Payne, shows that the British-designed, British-built Ninja is becoming a force to be reckoned with. Another Stokes Bay sailor, former Olympic campaigner Chris Rashley came in 3rd overall in his Ninja, behind the Psarofaghis Mach 2 but ahead of Payne. The Ninja is a bit cheaper too, although it has yet to prove itself as reliable as the Mach 2,  which comes with a two-year warranty, a staggeringly confident insurance plan for such a lightly-built bit of kit.

Stokes Bay being my home sailing club, I decided to tie in some rescue boat duty with watching the Moths race around the track on the first day of their Nationals. What seemed like a flat water day to me from the comfort and stability of a 5m RIB, I was later reliably informed was a very wavy day's sailing. The modern Moth enjoys flat water and becomes rather more of a handful at the first sight of waves.

The challenge of the Solent chop is something that Jason Belben has to contend with every time he goes sailing out of Stokes Bay, and his familiarity with the conditions must have helped him secure victory. One of Pete Barton's important discoveries, a eureka moment on the way down from Lymington was that the harder you drive the Moth, the safer you are. It's all about keeping maximum flow over the foils, he says. It reminds me of that piece of advice that ski instructors always handout to beginners, to lean forward over the tips of your skis,  rather than give in to your instinct to lean away from the slope of the mountain.
 
What brought this discovery home to Pete Barton  was that he picked a narrow weather window between wind squalls, and had the ever present reminder of the big dark cloud breathing down his neck all the way down the Solent. Pushing hard, he managed to stay ahead of it until the final mile to Stokes Bay when the big wind finally caught up with him, although he did manage to get ashore safely.

One of the new additions to the foiling package on a modern Moth is a variable height wand which can be adjusted while hiking off the side of the boat. This enables you to have a high riding  height for upwind. Because Moth sailors heel the boat so far over to windward, the height then converts to extra leverage and righting moment. But a high ride height downwind can make it very hairy, and prone to the foils leaving the water altogether as you overtake the waves at a rapid rate. So shortening the wand makes the boat ride lower to the water, in a much safer and more controllable fashion.  I suspect that after Stokes Bay, a good number more ride height adjusters will be fitted in the Moth fleet.

Watching the Moths fly around the track was fantastic, and if more than 50 people can be convinced to part with a not inconsiderable sum of money, then there must be something to it. I've loved my times out in the foiling RS 600, but fear that I would have to resort to criminal measures to get my hands on $20,000 if I ever get to experience Moth sailing. Better to live in ignorance, I try to tell myself. Maybe I could pretend that I'm just too old for that kind of thing now, although Jason Belben has a few years on me and Colin Newman, aged 68, was sailing the Moth very competently at Stokes Bay. A long-time Moth and International Canoe fanatic, there's no sign of the Draycote Water veteran hanging up his boots quite yet.

Geoff Carveth  was one name I might have expected to see at the Moth Nationals, but a lack of practice and time in the boat kept him away. However he has been trying his hand in a Merlin Rocket, as have many other familiar names from other fleets, including Tim Fells and David Hayes from the B14 fleet, and my old 14 helmsman Martin Jones.

Last year I wrote about the comeback of Jon Turner and Richard Parslow in the Merlin, with many innovative ideas to try and challenge the dominance of the near one-design Winder package. This year they're going even more radical with a canting rig. Jon Turner was one of the original pioneers of the raking rig in the 1980s, a development which has spread to almost every dinghy class that is permitted to alter rake. It will be interesting to see if the canting rig catches on in the Merlin and other development classes.

America's Cup

With the America's Cup having switched to fast catamarans, I'm guessing that our editor Gael is having to manage an argument between my fellow columnists, Bob Fisher and Jeremy Evans, as to who should be writing about the Cup. Moving from slow keelboats to fast multihulls has turned the Cup world on its head and among the beneficiaries of the new world order are some British dinghy sailors, notably Chris Draper as helmsman for Team Korea, and reigning Finn world champion Ed Wright is one of a group of Finn sailors who have been signed up to the Italian challenge, Green Comm.

So as the dinghy correspondent for Yachts and Yachting,  I'm going to stake a claim to America's Cup reporting too!  It's great to see an America's Cup pathway opening up for our top Olympic sailors, especially for the likes of Chris Draper and Ed Wright, both world-class sailors but who were unlikely to be selected for the Olympics next year because the GBR selection process is just so tough.

For years the America's Cup has operated as a closed shop for what has been a primarily Kiwi professional sailors' union, full of sailors protecting their own position and unwilling to open up too many opportunities to young sailors, for fear of slitting their own professional throats. Such protectionism is understandable, but the sheer physicality of the new AC45 multihulls, with just five crew, calls for a younger, fitter and more agile breed of athlete. At last the next generation is getting a look-in.

Now in his early 50s, the American professional Paul Cayard concedes that even as team boss of Swedish challenger Artemis, there's probably not going to be room for him on the boat. "The level of physical activity onboard is like nothing the America's Cup has ever seen. The races last 30 minutes and the heart rate for most of the five man crew is over 150bpm for that entire period with peaks of 175.  They actually wear heart rate monitors so our team's trainer, Pete Cunningham, can log their physical capabilities and stresses.  Recovery from these races will be paramount and the coach boat comes alongside after the session with energy drinks and protein bars."

You can start to see why Finn sailors such as Ed Wright are going to be in such hot demand for the 34th America's Cup.

 



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