Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Speed of the Sound of Loneliness

Why do so many multiple World Champions seem to get grumpy and leave Mothing? Boredom perhaps. Or maybe it's that they hate losing so much they can't stomach the fact that someone may come up with something on the design side that no amount of good sailing can overcome.

The pop psychologist in me attibutes this phenomenon to the fact that it must take a hell of a lot of effort to win a Worlds, and even more to win multiple times. So the thought of losing on the design side, rather than the sailing side, starts to seem like an unreasonable chance to take, and even more so if you are involved with building or selling a particular design.

It brings me back to the Fall of 2001, when I had some cash and looked at buying a Hungry Tiger from Mark Thorpe. We chatted back and forth a bit, but then 9/11 happened and it got put on the back burner. I do however recall it seemed obvious to both of us that two foils on the midline was the most likely way forward. He clearly saw the light at the end of the tunnel...and decided it was a freight train.

I wasn't privy to much of the discussion surrounding the adoption of hydrofoils, but there was a lot of discussion back and forth about whether to allow them - for the usual reasons: expense, practicality, decimating the fleet by putting it out of reach of mere mortals, etc. We all know where that led: foilers everywhere, but no more Hungry Tigers (apart from Scott's). The dominant class boatbuilder and three time World Champ, who even beat a foiling Rohan with a lowrider Hungry Tiger in Les Sable d'Olonne, decided he wasn't playing the foiling game. I have to give him credit for going out on a high note.

Rohan then went on to win in 2005 and 2007, affiliated with Bladerider in the latter event. Again not privy to any details, but the end of that story was basically that Bladerider was outclassed on the design side, and is no more. You'd think someone like Rohan would just move on to a Mach 2 and keep sailing, right? But after all that went on, and being so immersed in Mothing for so long, one can hardly blame him for wanting to do something else. Another boat and another multiple World champ sidelined by better hardware.

Fast forward to 2010 and history seems to be repeating itself: a multiple World champ is marketing the dominant boat, and yet another round of technical development threatens to knock it, and the Champ, off their perch. Having witnessed the rise and fall of Rohan on mainly technical grounds, and Thorpe before him, the best stragegery (to quote our 42nd President) for a sitting Champ and manufacturer rep is apparently to make it as hard for anything faster to get to the starting line as possible. Which is relatively easy to do when you sit on the Class Executive Committee.

Thusfar, we've seen the class Constitution invoked against the class rule, basically arguing that the first rule defining the class violates its own Constitution. This seems like kind of a scorched earth approach to winning, but whatever. Not entirely convincing in any event. This argument having failed, the discussion has shifted to Rule 4.2, and the responsibility of the measurer to report  "anything which he may consider to be unusual or to depart from the intended nature of the boat, or to be against the general interest of the class." The Rule states further that "a certificate may be refused, even if the specific requirements of the class are satisfied." Unfortunately, the decision regarding whether to refuse a Certificate to a wing hinges upon a tricky, somewhat subjective judgment by the Exec: Are wings against the general interest of the class?

Suffice it to say the positions of interested parties are predictable on this point: boat manufacturers feel that wings are against the general interest of the class, pretty much, and the people building wings obviously feel that they are squarely within the general Class interest. Both factions have vested interests in the outcome. Which is, well, interesting, as the very next Rule, 4.3, quite presciently states the following:

A measurer shall not measure a boat, spars or equipment owned, designed or built by themselves, or in which they are an interested party or have a vested interest.

So, if I follow the news properly, measurers are banned from measuring equipment they have an interest in, but Exec members are allowed to rule on how the measurement rules should apply to equipment that THEY have a vested interest in suppressing or promoting? Perhaps the Class should pass a rule mandating Exec members recuse themselves from debates in which they have a vested interest.

Impressively, the Exec is off to a good start: Bora has been booted from the Exec on grounds of vested interest. But now that the precedent has been set, it hardly seems reasonable to allow manufacturer representatives with equally vested, but opposite interests to remain. Let the standard be applied uniformly.


Giovanni Galeotti said...

Messing up the wing thing will send moths slowly backwards towards irrelevance. It's not just a question of outcome but of process. So far, sadly, it looks messy.

Unknown said...

Hi Karl,

As a "manufacturer" while I am sitting on the non wing side of the fence please be aware that I am more than prepared to tool up and build one as is Kevin to design one should they turn out to be what the class wants moving forward. I don't want to waste a load of money on goalposts that may change.

I am still firmly of the believe that these things constitute two sails. We've never been allowed a jib, but suddenly you can have one just by the process of calling it something else.

I think the whole thing has been handled pretty badly. The initial response was "the class has a good record with handling change" and ignoring it. If the exec had referred to the measurers initially when coming up with the "interpretation" they would have seen that none of us could agree on the basics and that it was going to cause more trouble down the line.

Anonymous said...

Why is the executive committee deciding this? Shouldn't the class make the decision in a vote?

Unknown said...

The exec is trying to decide how to proceed under the current rules.

I would imagine they are also formulating a proposal to put forward at Belmont as to how to proceed with a rule change and this will likely be voted upon at the Euro's this summer.

Clean said...

All well and good Cookie, but what do you think of conflicts of interest on the ExComm.

Unknown said...

I'm not in the loop so don't know what is happening right now but the way I see it is that Bora has a wing - he obviously wants it to be legal and therefore can't judge on it.
If you think that those on the committee have anything other than the best interest of the event and therefore the class in mind then you'd better rethink.
Anything the exec does has to be watertight. At the moment their are flawed interpretations that are easily protestable and the whole event has the potential to wind up in farce which must be avoided.

McConaghy can build wings if there is money in it and I don't see why they would be against it. Mike L as UK pres has mentioned that he is more than partial to the idea of wings regardless of running Hyde.

Phil Stevenson said...

The way I see it the problem began in July when Adam revealed his wing. Maybe before that becasue he has posted that he and Bora had an informal race to be first.

That was the time for a decision on how they should be measured. One was made and then deemed illegitimate, I think because some powerful people disagreed with its content and used its process to discredit it.

Six months later and its now 3 weeks to the WC and we are still waiting for a decision on how the wings are to be measured. Thats not right, any discussion and decisions on how the existing rules would be used should have been made months ago, instead we have a lot of behind the scenes stumbling.

The Aust measurer who will have the job at Belmont has been told he must follow direction from the executive but no such direction has appeared.

Boats are getting measured now for the regatta. If we wait to measurement day then it will take all week and there will be no racing. How can we measure boats for the regatta now and others later under a different set of "interpretations"


I hope that we all get a decision in 2011 on the future of wings in the class via some democratic vote, quickly and efficiently, not by the process curently making us look stupid.

Anonymous said...

All the C-Class guys must be laughing at us... the ISAF measurement manual tells exactly how to measure wings, I just looked it up. It's not that hard...

Anonymous said...

It's the one sail only rule that is tripping up the class.

Area is easy, luff length is easy-ish (but is a little complicated by the one sail rule).

Anonymous said...

The "one sail" argument is silly! why does the fact that it has a slot mean it is not "one sail"? it's not like you can fly one part of the wing and not the other

Karl said...

Gio - precisely. We simply cannot allow a precedent to be set whereby a development is banned on shaky pretenses before even being allowed to compete. If this is allowed, we hardly deserve to be called a Development Class any longer.

Cookie - I don't doubt your willingness or ability to tool up for building wings, or Ellway's ability to design a good one. Or the abilities of Amac et al in the same arena, or Lennon, or Adam, or anyone else. But the process has to be innovate, build, sail and then allow the Class to respond - not innovate, build, and have the
Exec ban your device on a measurement pretext before you ever get to the water.

I don't have a dog in this wing fight. I like my soft sails just fine, frankly. If the Class votes to ban them after Belmont, I won't be upset. But to do so at this stage of the game just makes a farce of the whole development process, and the Class by extension. If we cannot agree that development is an inherent part of Mothing, is desirable, and is to be encouraged, then something has gone very wrong indeed.

Cookie I beg to differ on the two sail argument; I think this is simply a case of a rule being applied to a situation it could not possibly anticipate.

Finally, though this post was targeted at certain arguments, this was mainly to demonstrate that the Exec and its members need to be above reproach in their statements and decisions, as the appearance of impropriety can be just as damaging as the real thing.

Anonymous said...

There isn't many builders who can sustain complete re-tooling and redesigning their moth every 2 years!
Hence the long list of builders no longer involved in the class.

I'm going to put a jib in front of my pocket-luff rig for Belmont and call it a two-element slotted soft sail!

Two aerofoils, one behind the other with a distinct gap, does not make one sail.

Giovanni Galeotti said...

Just a note of interest:Some of you may not remember that the last C Class cats to run with soft sails had abandoned the use of jibs and were flying una rigs, basically a cat rig with main only.This because of the higher efficiency of the one sail rig. I think the only reason 2 man modern soft sail cats have a jib is so that they can tack more easily and be more "tactical". So I don't think flying a jib on your moth (were it allowed) would make you any faster.

Bora Gulari said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bora Gulari said...

The name are now anon's but it is pretty easy to tell who is who. A jib wont be faster I encourage you to prove me wrong. So the two sail argument is crap, but for sake of argument is it possible to have a independant sail without a sheet on it? On our rig we have one sheet and one control. How can you call something a sail if there is no ability to actively trim it by itself.

I have another challenge go hold a picture of my moth with a wing up for a junior ask them how many sails there are? Think anyone will hear oh that is a mast with two sails floating behind it??

Sorry the formatting of my last post was all messed up

Unknown said...

Well by that logic my boat is an aeroplane to most passers by at my club. Thankfully our rules are not governed by 10 years olds even though a lot of people seem to be behaving as such.

How it's sheeted doesn't define how many sails there are. Would you claim a marblehead with a swing rig has only one just because one string controls it? By sheeting the aft sail you sheet the forward one mechanically... 

These 'sails' only work because the forward wing interferes  with the airflow of the rear one. They have their own flow fields and behave as such. A normal wing mast with a sail behind it doesn't do this.

Unknown said...

Sorry, just re-read that. I wasn't suggesting that bora was behaving like a 10 year old....

Karl said...

I do not think anyone would be protesting if someone cut a slot in their soft sail, because it would not be faster. So why the fuss? A wing allows one to put the gap in there in an efficient way. This is progress.

I think some of the opposition is also because people don't want to lose - which in this case is not just the current world champ. This is the wrong motivation in a class that is supposed to be about faster boats - we should be supporting people who try things that are fast, and judging the result, rather than looking for excuses to disqualify them preemptively. In the future we should look carefully at the exec and strive to avoid overly competitive motivations of people within it, which can have the effect of limiting development.

Similarly, I think we have to question the overall utility of a rule that seems to have no modern utility apart from banning devices it could never have foreseen.

Are we committed to the notion of going faster as a class, or not? If so, people are going to have to accept that they have to keep up on the technical side - not only on the sailing god side of things, as seems to be the case at the front of the fleet. You sail a development boat, occasionally you are going to be outdone by development.

I think wings may have potential to shrink the class, to put it outside the realm of reason for many people, and that this is another unspoken motivation for opposing this development. It will do no good for everyone to tool up and build wings if the market shrinks from what it is now. But that has always been the pattern in Moths - there is no clause in the rule for job security. The only security for builders is in building a fast product.

rtrs said...

Cross-posted from SA. How many sails are in this picture?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps this is a naive question, but is there a reason why the rules impose a single sail limit? Regardless of the soft/solid sail discussion, if someone can develop a way to configure 8m^2 of sail area to be faster as a two sail arrangement, why should we exclude this option?

Unknown said...


in my view, 2.

Bora Gulari said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bora Gulari said...

damn my typing with rubber gloves.

In regards to ISAF IMM there is one sail. With respect to the first element "interfering" with the flow to the second. Are you refering to the change in AWA that there is chord wise along the sail? There is nothing different in a pocket luff or a rotating wing mast. Your argument is like saying no aerodynamic element of a sail can't be influenced by something upstream of it...

Anonymous said...

Can people stop using the two-element argument as a way of disqualifying a wing from the class.

If you are against the wing then please argue the actual reasons instead of finding a loophole to throw it out of the discussion.

- If you are jealous of those who have one, then deal with it

- If you dont have the money, make more of it

- If you don't have the patience to wait, try practicing sailing in the meantime

- If you truly think it will ruin the class, then make a logical argument when the time comes

I have a Braderider and I am in favor of a wing because it can possibly increase performance. I joined the fleet because it is a high performance design.

Anonymous said...


why 2 and not 9?

Unknown said...

The ISAF guide only acounts for articulating wings (your front element and flap) but doesn't say anything about seperated elements or how to define them. The C-Class was always allowed multiple sails even if they didn't use them so we are having to set a precedent.

I'm quite happy with my opinion but at the end of the day I'm not going to the event and don't actually mind what happens - as long as in three weeks time we have a definite direction and I know what my rig can look like without being protested.

Phil Stevenson said...

You will not necessarily know in 3 weeks what to build for the future.
In three weeks we will hopefully have the IMCA/ISAF interpretation of the existing rules. That may not last because its obvious that we need to change at least some things to remove ambiguity.
So there will be some rule changes in 2011 to tidy up things and in parallel to that change process we are to be given the oportunity to decide if we want to ban wings or confirm them as legal.
Adam started that process in Sept or Oct but the argument based on the present rules has taken over and controlled the blogoshere, the forums and the emails.
Its still important that we think ahead, to post Belmont and decide what we want for the future of the class and how our rules can be improved to prevent a repeat of the present confused position.

Unknown said...


Whatever goes down in the next few weeks will stick until the next EGM at least! That means the next europeans will be sailed to the same assumptions being made now...

Anonymous said...

can I have your email please?