Welcome to wing camp

I will remember the Belmont worlds fondly for many reasons. Walking out of the AGM to see Bora’s mum, her friend Elaine and my parents sitting around an almost empty bottle of wine getting along like a house on fire was one of them.

Another was spending time with Charlie, Bora, Bear and Rob including a full day in the US rib, getting a inside view of a wing campaign and how it works. As a result I wanted to post a few thoughts about the wings as a lot of questions have already been answered in my mind as to whether they should be allowed or not.

Initial impressions

Initial impressions of the wing are fucking impressive. The are awesome bits of kit, that appear, on the surface to be quite complex, internally they have flap control lines everywhere in the second element, flap connectors in the front element, and the pre-preg curved leading edge was a work of art. Even though I had already seen build photos and know how it was put together the thought that ran through my mind was “Fuck, how am I going to ever build one of these?”


After the initial oh fuck moment, and after spending time with super support guy Rob Patterson throughout the regatta, I now know that, whilst these wings do indeed have secrets that they aren’t giving up easily, they are not the holy grail of unbuildable technology. The seed had been sown, I have to build one.

Then they started breaking.


Bora’s wings should not be used as an indicator of wing reliability. My foredeck has more than double the laminate of Bora’s wings. If Adam May walked along the leading edge of one of Bora’s Bemont wings he would fall right through it. All three wings suffered the same compression failure, and the final repair, that added another layer of laminate to the front of the wing solved it, Charlie managed to get it around in 30knot winds, so I would call that sorted. That said, the wings were delt multiple capsizes and kept on kicking.

When the wings fail they look broken, really broken, and I was quite surprised when Rob would simply shrug it off as not too bad, and then systematically start putting them back together. He was right. The wings, when they break, because the film rips look absolutely destroyed, and they are, but, because they are so simple, as long as you planned for it and have spares, you can patch them up, and go sailing again. They also seem to be able to get along with bits missing as well. The csylar film is bloody strong, it took me four attempts to punch through it during one of the recoveries to tie the wing into the rib. I think that these things are the great, great daddy of the terminator, they are very, very hard to kill.


Now this was unexpected. If you have multiple people, then rigging is much easier than a soft sail. With one person holding the boat, and one at each end of the mast, you can literally rig the boat in less than a minute. I know this because we did it in exactly that time after a failure. When we tried to do exactly the same thing with Dalton when he snapped a mast, it took us heaps longer to turn him around and get him back out there. That said, I would not want to attempt to rig and launch a wing by myself, although I am sure it is possible.


Recovery of broken wings, with Bora’s Dux catamaran rib, was easier than recovering a standard soft sail. A broken wing floats (mostly), although the crunchy crunch sounds it makes in the waves is very, very disconcerting. To recover, the wing needs to be disconnected from the boat, then floated next to the rib then pulled in one go, and kept flat so the wind does not grab it. The boat is towed back to shore behind the rib, with the wing being held down. To contrast this with a soft sail recovery with a broken boom I did straight after, it took two of us to swim around with vice grips trying to remove the broken boom and then de-rig the mast. (It was at this point Jimmy Spithill came by to tell us that the second wing had broken, and we quickly fled the scene leaving Jimmy to finish the tow to shore for us.)

So, assuming you have the right recovery boats, recovering the wing is actually easier than a soft sail rig, I have done two of both, in the same conditions on the same day. The other challenge is that the longer the wing is in the water, the more damage is done to it.

The important lesson here though is most of the boats that are used to recover moths, simply aren’t the right boats, and for big regattas you need lots of the right ones.

Capsise.png TheRib.png

The wing mid capsize (yes it survived without a scratch), and the author on pre-race drink duty with Charlie in the M2 and Rob driving Bora’s rib.

Storage and Transport

This is where the wing looses major ground to the soft sail rig. The US Air force had a container, which served as their wing hanger for the event. I am sure that if they didn’t have that, then they would have simply hung them up in the Belmont boat shed. So the problem with the rigs is that you need a “wing tent”, boat shed or a container to store them in. The advantage, is that because you have wings, you now have a “wing tent”, boat shed or onsite container to store all your other crap and to be an onsite workshop. I can see how with some planning this could be done in most clubs with boat storage, and definitely at regattas, just not ones held at Woolahara, where there even the boats are outside unprotected. Otherwise it would just take a some pre-planning with the club to pre-arrange hanging space inside the sheds, or erect a tent.

Transport is where the main issues would lie, sending wings to a regatta in a box or container is one thing, putting them on a trailer and driving to a local club, or for a couple of hours up the freeway is another, but it is nothing that a large, enclosed trailer could not fix.


When Bladerider first came on the scene I was concerned that the DNA of the moth class would be lost by the new members who joined as they would prefer one a one design approach over the development route. People like Bora, Bear, Joe Turner and Nathan have proven to me, beyond a doubt that this was wrong and wings or no wings, the ethos of the moth is alive and well.

Wings are something we should be cautious about, but we should not be afraid of them. If they are allowed, then I can guarantee that I will be building one, or two, or three, and mental design process has already started. If they are banned then I will have the experience of a lifetime to remember.

There is definitely a cost argument against wings, but since no one seems to care that people have 5 masts and multiple foils to choose from, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

I think we should trust a little that, with wings, the sky won’t start falling, but, we might want an evacuation plan just in case.


15 thoughts on “Welcome to wing camp”

  1. I’m glad the wing sailed, it answered a lot of questions for me.
    It is a step too far for me and won’t be rushing out and building one.
    The logistics of it and the (current?) reliabilty issues, make it not worth the massive effort involved in building/developing a wing, all for what is only possibly a marginal performance increase (I know this may change as it’s developed).
    It would take a lot of convincing to get me to change from a near indestructable soft sail, to what is currently a fragile, tweeky ball ache of a wing mast. I don’t need to spend more time on boat work.

    I think a wing mast/soft sail combo could possibly be the best of both worlds, I think I will go down that road instead(and I’m certain a few others will too).

    Does StGeorge even have a rescue boat? Let alone the right type? I never saw one when I needed it. Enjoy swimming the inevitable pile of crumpled wing to the beach =P

    If people are willing to spend the large amounts of time and money developing a wing sail, then I think it should be allowed, with rules for it to be equitably measured.

    If it gets to the stage, that to be competitive at the front of the fleet you need to ship a container with multiple wings, support boat and full time boat builder for the running repairs/rebuilds to do a regatta. Then the wing needs banning. 99% of the class can’t do this.
    If your happy to do that – go build a C Cat and enjoy sailing by yourself.

    Do mothies not at the regatta realise that even with 3 wings (rebuilt several times) a container, support rib and full time boat builder, the wing (or various components of the 3) didn’t finish the regatta?

    Have you run the wing building Idea past your missus Bruce? I think I know the answer to that:)

  2. Nice post. There is only limited info in the public about what it is like to work with wings so your information is useful and timely.

  3. Thanks for posting this Bruce

    So just to get this straight… In order to do a wing campaign, you need at least two wings, someone running a maintenence program on them for you throughout the event and to help you put the wing up, specialist rescue boats and to provide your own covered storage area. I thought bringing a coach to an event was a bit silly but this really takes the cake! Just put this on a club scale – I sail at the only club I’ve found in the UK that has indoor storage for boats – where is everyone else going to be keeping them?

    I can only think of one venue in the UK that could handle the space requirements alone for an event with 25 wings which is the concrete jungle in Weymouth. I’ve not been to the venue at Garda for next year – how many can they cope with?

    I think the reality will be that in order to make them twist enough, not pitchy and keep them easily sailable they will certainly have to be light enough to be having crash related structural failures on a pretty regular basis. Will insurance companies cover them once a few get written off? Will vendors have to bear any sort of warranty on them?
    I’ve been told that the boatyard at beer are quoting around £4k for the May wingsail – pretty much double the price of a standard rig and thats before adding the flap on the ‘mast’.

    I currently can’t see any sensible side to this development, it’s not like foiling where it brought something new to the table – just a really fragile sail that at it’s very best can only provide a minor improvement on what we have already… It would be a hell of a lot easier if they didn’t offer an improvement as no one would want one!

    I wasn’t entirely anti wing before the event, and voted for them to race but I just can’t see how they are workable.

  4. I think it is interesting how people can reach the exact opposite conclusion of what was written.

    What part of “Bora’s wings should not be used as an indicator of wing reliability” did you not understand????

    The class is not interested in cost reduction or restricting equipment so who cares how much they cost, I am sick of bringing it up.

    I know the UK is small, but I’m calling bullshit on “one venue in the UK that could handle the space requirements”. Part of Hayling Island’s worlds pitch was .. “Plenty of room to store wings” …

    You don’t need specialist rescue boats, you just need to have the correct ones in the first place, which is already required for any large moth regatta. Like I said, they are EASIER to recover than a moth with a standard rigs, once you know how.

  5. I have decided that I would like to build a wing one day but not for the next year at least. There is a lot of R+D to be done that I would like to copy once it is successful. However although I am a big fan of others doing this and of the idea of building one I just do not want to have the hassle of ownership or going sailing with it. So I really have mixed feelings about it.

    I think that it needs to be competitive under the same rule as soft sails which means one element. If someone can make a one element wing competitive practical and fun to own then they are a true development hero that I can not wait to copy.


  6. Hi Bruce, Good to meet you in Belmont and put a face to the name.

    Whilst its true HISC does have a huge amount of under cover storage which would be available for any wing coming to a HISC worlds. The a fore mentioned space is used by the Hayling staff to do rib and committee boat maintenance amongst other things. So 20 odd wings hanging around in there on a permanent basis would not be at all popular. It could be another revenue spinner for the club however, if they could afford the space and charge for undercover wing storage.

    When I hear all the stories on how all the practical issues of the wing will be solved in future I am reminded of the Nuclear story. When the UK government went ahead with the first generation of power plants back in the 50s, the then PM was told when he asked what will we do the toxic deadly waste, “don’t worry we will have a solution by the time we decommission”, his chief scientific adviser told him.

    The neat and clever solution still in use to this day is to dig a big hole chuck all the nasty stuff in and cover it in concrete, having first pumped some of the slightly less nasty stuff into the ocean.

  7. 4K sounds like a good deal to me. How much is a new KA sail, mast, boom and prodder?
    You wouldn’t get much change from 4K…..

  8. Bruce, great article.

    Of course different people will form different opinions given the same facts. You might think that the robustness issues will be solved, but others don’t. The transportation issue is big, particularly for national and international events. It’s already a limiting factor, increasing shipping costs by perhaps 100% might be a show stopper.

    I like wings, they might be a great improvement for Moths. But the idea of 100 wings at Belmont, all individually transported by boat owners, raises some concerns that haven’t been addressed. No one seems to be thinking outside the box on some of these issues yet, so the best way forward for me is to allow wings to compete and see where it goes.

  9. I have to learn to sai a moth properly before I need to worry about a wing, great all the talk going on but rather than talking about all this; I might learn to sail the moth well first…The AC 45 wing is cool, and cooler still that the helm has a guy to pull the strings for him…Personally I think people will still find more speed advantages in foil development than wing development anyway…
    Rob nice fairings!!!

  10. Tim, my beermat calcs have a Hyde at £800, mast at £700, boom at 300, prodder at 150. All rounded up. That gives me £2050 in change.

  11. Point taken Mike but you are still out less than an a-cat and still easier to pack and ship. so not unprecedented in singlehanded boats. of course not as tidy as the current rig, but thats progress. i should think you would be way out in front on this between Ellway and your model stuff-build a scale model for the tri!

  12. Very nice write up Bruce. To me still not really enough data to go on to make any sort of judgement yet. We should be allowing (encouraging?) further development then see where we get to

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