Monday, December 13, 2010

International Moth - Revolution or evolution

A development class is not for the meek, and the development class that is getting all the publicity these days in the International Moth. When Rohan Veal from Australia electrified the sailing world in 2005 when he became the first person to win an International Moth World Championship on hydrofoils, it required everyone to either add foils to their boat or get beat by those that did. This is what development classes do. They develop.

The list of Moth class rules is short, limiting little more than hull length and width and sail area. They begin by stating their intention “is to give the designer and builder the fullest liberty in design and construction, within these rules to develop and produce faster boats.” And while the idea is to stretch the boundaries for better boat speed, this reality is not always well received.

The 2011 International Moth World Championship is next month in Belmont, Australia (Jan. 8-14), and the class Executive Committee is hurriedly trying to navigate the next big development: wing sails. Since Simon Payne (GBR) won the 2010 Worlds in March, which followed the domination of a wing sail at the 33rd America’s Cup, factions in the class went into the garage to make their own wing. And now they are coming out.

The problem is threefold. First, the class rules are not well suited to the wing, so interpretations must be made. The sticking point is that the rules permit one mast and one sail, and the naysayers find that all the flaps and elements amid the wing are over the limit. There is concern among the sail manufacturers who fear their livelihood is in danger, and are seeking to halt this development as not being in the “general interest of the class”. Then there are all the soft sail competitors who fear their kit will not be sufficient at the 2011 Worlds. And all this uproar comes before the wing sails have entered a race.

As Class president Mark Robinson (SIN) noted during the 2010 Annual General Meeting in March, “We’ve got a healthy class. The fleet is still on an up-turn, but the trick is to maintain this. The class philosophy is that as a development class just about anything goes. If it works, and the class members like it, it will be embraced, if not it may be banned. Thus ‘retrospective legislation’ is the philosophy. We also have to be careful how many revolutions we have within the class in a given period to ensure sustained growth. Hydrofoils have been a great success, but incurred a significant cost increase upon their introduction, so we have to be careful how many major revolutions we have, versus constant evolution.”

So will the class embrace the wing, or will self-interest kill it first? The clock is ticking, and the ethos of the class is set to be tested.

Additional reports on the subject:
http://mothchronicles.blogspot.com
http://www.yachtsponsorship.com
http://www.sailingscuttlebutt.com/news/10/1201/

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