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North Sails NEWS
MOTH NEWBIE: DAN NERI LEARNS TO FOIL
The North Sails CEO talks about his recent sailing—and swimming, and crashing—experiences
When I first saw a photo of a foiling Moth in Seahorse Magazine I did not understand what I was looking at. Since then, as I watched foiling expand from extreme dinghies to multihulls and offshore monohulls, I took the attitude that foiling came a little too late for me. I figured that, at 60 years old, my learning days were behind me. But after my Laser training partner Scott Ferguson talked me into a ride on his Moth last summer, I was hooked. Two weeks later I bought a used boat, took delivery in September 2018, and my adventures as a Moth newbie began.
Like all recreational one design classes, the Moth class is welcoming to newcomers. The experienced sailors support the bungling beginners because they, too, had to fight through the learning frustration, the broken boat parts and the bodily bumps and bruises, before gaining the skills required to get around the bay or race course. As class veteran Anthony Kotoun explains it, “We all want to get you up to speed so we don’t have to wait around or worry about you.”
On land there are no secrets. Everyone is happy to share rigging and setup ideas and even spare parts. On the water, coaching is mostly by means of “fly-bys” to demonstrate the right take-off angle, heel and sail trim. Back on shore, the best coaching of the day comes as small suggestions, words of encouragement, and reminders that everyone struggled at the beginning.
The boat itself is a complicated machine. After decades of Laser sailing, I valued a high ratio of sailing time to rigging and unrigging time. The Moth is a different beast. It takes an hour to set up, and half an hour to unrig and put away.
When my new-to-me boat arrived last fall, I was eager to learn as much as I could before the Rhode Island sailing season ended. With the days growing shorter, the water colder and the westerly breeze stronger, I felt pressure to cram in learning time between the end of the work day and the beginning of night.
Setup is part of the fun
At first it seemed like everything was extremely difficult, from setting up the foils to attaching the outhaul. My first day sailing alone I had so much trouble rigging up that I ran out of daylight and never got in the water. The next day was better, even though I ended de-rigging in the dark, shivering after 30 minutes of swimming and 30 minutes of sailing and cursing at myself while looking for ring dings in the sand. But over the first 10 hours of sailing (20 hours of rigging and unrigging), I progressed from fighting the boat to a sort of affectionate truce. I learned to embrace the boat maintenance tasks as a hobby. And I accepted that rigging and foil setup time is part of the game and not just another chore.
Making it my own
Every Moth is slightly different. Mine arrived with all the required controls plus a canting rig. When I emptied the box onto the lawn I found two sets of vertical foils, a total of 6 horizontal foils, three masts and 4 different sails. These parts are not all interchangeable and for some reason, Moth parts are rarely labeled. It turns out that Patrick Wilson, the prior owner of Moth #4425, is an expert rigger and a notorious gear-head. Gradually I have modified Patrick’s Moth with an emphasis on simplicity at the expense of top end performance. Now it feels like my own boat and when I get it going I find myself marveling at the magic it produces, skimming above the surface of the bay, making no sound except the flicking of the wand. Three words keep running through my head: “This is cool.”
After about 30 hours of sailing (and 60 hours of rigging and unrigging), I can foil with confidence in the limited window of 8-14 knots. My next goal is a foiling jibe, though I know that will take a lot more time. Compared to most dinghies, building the basic skill set for the Moth is difficult, especially when you’re almost too old to learn new tricks.