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 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.
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.