Thursday, October 23, 2008

When Moths Dream...

they probably dream that they're TriFoilers:

If you're thinking "My moth goes that fast" well, you're wrong. But you can take comfort in the fact that your moth foils in conditions where TriFoilers simply wallow - say anything under 12 knots of breeze. And as much as I may envy these guys the ability to look around and take photos with both hands while sailing , it looks a bit, well, sedate. 

In terms of outright speed though, there is simply no comparison. The boat is so powerful with its biplane rig and wide effective beam that it can really make the most of whatever power is available in a way that just dwarfs the righting moment of a Moth. When pushed very hard, the windward foil will even pull down a bit - but mind you this is when the boat is pushed VERY hard. And chop? Pretty incredible abilities there also, while we are steering all over in search of the next wave crest, trying to stay out of the sky. 

All that speed and smoothness comes at a price - complexity, weight and ease of maneuvering on shore. But perhaps there are some lessons to be learned here, if one pays enough attention.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pretty good (if short) video

Looks like Rod Mincher is at it again with his video editing skills. Possibly the best moth vid soundtrack since Nige and "I Am a Passenger" from 2000 or so, which is saying a lot as the number of videos has ballooned considerably since then. On the whole, I still think my favorite song that was ever used as a soundtrack on a Moth vid is the Wise Guys Remix of "The Kids Aren't All Right" - again from the 2001 timeframe. But the lyrics from the first two vids above fit so perfectly it's uncanny.

Nige where is that Hungry Tiger these days, anyway? Cool boat. Lowriders will be super trendy again in about ten years, just like fixie bikes are at the moment. Every once in awhile, the speed advantage of non-foilers in displacement mode is caught on video, as in this video from what I think are the Japan nationals 2008. Of course, the foilers get their revenge soon after, but it might be worth losing a lot of races to school a bunch of foilers to the windward mark in a penultimate Moth. Anyway the soundtrack editor could take a few hints from the Brits, but no matter - it's good to see the moth fleet in Japan doing well, and we'll take whatever video we can get to avoid having to read google translations of Japanese regatta reports from their website.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What Now?

Chatting to Greg the other day about how things are going and he said "Great. So what's next?" I had to admit I hadn't thought it through - sudden success is like that - you end up on the far side looking a bit dazed.

I have some plans for a new rudder and need to vet the current system in some more challenging conditions before getting too cocky. New rudder may be fixed - no twist grip - I have a bunch of acme threaded delrin rod if anybody needs some, which is ironic as I may now have rendered it superfluous. The wand paddle certainly needs some massaging and there is quite a bit left to do in the marginal air department.

But really what needs to be done most is go mothing with some other guys and see where we are performance-wise. That has been impossible until now, well, because the boat has been sort of unsailable until now - in any serious way at least. But when you can throw in four or five gybes in a row without going completely pear shaped and even manage a couple of foiling tacks it's time to set one's sights a bit higher.

Need to buy some Awlgrip - I'm thinking flat black for the foil because I baked it at 170 but perhaps a shade of something lighter would be more interesting from a spectator standpoint. Assuming it holds together of course; I had some chances to wind it up on Sunday so it's seeing some forces it hasn't seen to date and may decide to fold up, but so far so good. It is a bit wobbly in the gybes but no matter - I hear wobbly is fast. At least my foil has a core, which should count for something.

New gantry fitting - the lower one is egged-out. Fundamentally I don't think a 3/16" pin will go the distance in that location without being replaced about once a year.

Boys down south plan to cut a hull tool sometime soon; it will be fun to see that take shape.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Shaping Up

The ol' girl is finally starting to act like a proper moth again, after rather a lot of clowning around. For some reason the wind in the little bay by the club was decent for foiling if a bit up and down, with some good puffs rolling through. After reconsidering my set point issues on my bungee (rather a different bungee than you have most likely) I installed a 2:1 in about 15 minutes and eliminated quite a bit of rubber from the deck. Apart from looking a lot more manageable and less like a bird's nest, this allowed me to set the engagement point a lot more precisely and vary the rate quite easily as well. In the first 30 minutes of sailing I capsized perhaps six times to adjust set point, rate, and wand line length, and in the end I had something which behaved very much like a normal moth, with a couple of exceptions: my wand is hollow and kept injecting air onto my rudder during takeoff before the wand started planing, resulting in some slow takeoffs. The second issue is my trunk which lacks any sort of fairing around the foil at all - I'm sure this would help my lowriding speed and takeoff quite a bit.

Next task is to prime, sand and paint the mainfoil, and design a rudder tool. If things keep going this well I might actually be halfway competitive next month in San Diego or wherever we are racing next. There is a regatta later this month at ABYC also but not sure I am ready for that quite yet, esp. against Graham Biehl in his newish Velociraptor (I think). Those 470 dudes are some good sailors.

Managed to foil for over two hours inside the bay where the speed limit is 5mph so either the Patrol was on a rather long coffee break or they have decided I am not worth the trouble. I try to only foil circles around the boats that cheer first; some guy in an electric picnic boat just couldn't get enough gawking and decided to bear off onto my course just to leeward of me at the very moment my rudder ventilated. So now I am careening directly at him at a high rate of speed from about 20 feet away. I had to completely bail to avoid T-boning him. Not his fault but people seem to assume I am in a lot better control a lot more of the time than I actually am. I suppose that's why they put the speed limit at 5. 

I have the wackiest paddle right now; it is pretty big and a bit concave going forward - this makes for a nice little geyser effect on one tack and something akin to a soda fountain on the other, with lots of splashiness. Probably not fast but today it was holding height really well so I can't complain - paddles are easy to change - just a few minutes with the belt sander or cut it off and glom something else on.

All this effort only to have a Moth that sails like a Moth. Like someone said - it's the journey, not the destination; I am learning so much every time I go out that it is pretty addictive. As I told Nat and Bobby K today it's like making a new paper airplane every time I go out except that instead of throwing it and watching it I get to ride the thing. Sailing a moth you've bought is fun, and it is a lot of work getting any moth set up properly to the point where it is reliable. But refining a new system and figuring out how to sail it when you've built it yourself is a completely different level of satisfaction. Days like today are sort of hard to comprehend - it seems impossible that the boat could be doing precisely what it should in most situations, and yet there it is - just like the Infinite Improbability Drive in the Hitchiker's Guide. To recap:

This is a moment for superb and delicate concentration. Bob and float, float and bob. Ignore all consideration of your own weight simply let yourself waft higher. Do not listen to what anybody says to you at this point because they are unlikely to say anything helpful. They are most likely to say something along the lines of "Good God, you can't possibly be flying!" It is vitally important not to believe them or they will suddenly be right.

Waft higher and higher. Try a few swoops, gentle ones at first, then drift above the treetops breathing regularly.


When you have done this a few times you will find the moment of distraction rapidly easier and easier to achieve.

You will then learn all sorts of things about how to control your flight, your speed, your maneuverability, and the trick usually lies in not thinking too hard about whatever you want to do, but just allowing it to happen as if it were going to anyway.

Girl crewing a 420 yelled "I LOVE YOUR BOAT" which is touching given i've hacked it up and added all sorts of new kit. Either any boat looks really good on foils or having one black and one white foil is somehow more attractive than two white ones. Maybe it's the splashy paddle. 

Watched Mars Attacks again the other night. That movie is a classic.

Sorry no new photos or video from today; left the camera at home. Pity in a way, but sometimes it's more important to make progress on the development side than to document it for the rest of the world. Actually that's probably always true. But it doesn't stop me from typing stuff here anyway.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I've done it! I've done it - 
Guess what I've done!
I've invented a light
That plugs into the sun
The sun is bright enough,
The bulb is strong enough, 
There's just one thing wrong - 
The cord's not long enough.

- Shel Silverstein (from memory)

This country is rapidly falling apart, and my beautiful, tatted-up heroin addict patient has three different bacterial species eating her heart. I can pretty much guarantee that she doesn't have any money to pay for anything I've done for her at the hospital over the past three weeks, which doesn't really affect me directly, but does point out the fundamental instability of our current healthcare funding system. At the moment, our hospital absorbs the costs, then charges more to everyone who can afford to pay to make up the difference. So my insurance rates go up to pay for her care. Fine, but as costs climb, many healthy people drop their insurance, leaving fewer people to bear the burden of the unfunded, and driving insurance costs up even further in a vicious cycle. It is all completely unsustainable. 

I have been working for the past 20 days or so in a row, and consequently not making much progress on the water. The latest efforts have been to adjust my foil control system including the wand stiffness, paddle size, and refining some stuff on my deck that is unique to my setup. Might be time for another visit to the saltwater tackle shop.

Si Payne apparently feels his new Mach II foil is sufficiently advanced that it warrants a Quiz. I won't speculate on flap retention mechanisms, but will simply say that losing flaps is not something I worry about much these days.