a bug’s life

San Diego sailor Ryan Lorence has joined the crazed world of Moth sailing. It isn’t pretty…

There’s some things in life you never forget. Firsts which make such an impact on how you perceive the world, and what you imagine is possible, that they stick in your mind and are never forgotten. I don’t remember the first time I drove a car, or the first time i won a sailboat race, but i can tell you with certainty, I will never forget the first time my friend loaned me his foiling Moth. It was about 1 year ago in Mission Bay in about 12 kts of breeze.

I climbed onboard, and the first thing I noticed was how unstable the boat is while floating. I never really realized that they’re only about 13 inches wide, It’s like trying to balance a rowing shell with a windsurfer sail tied to it. Now, the only reason i was able to talk my way into this position in the first place is probably because of my experience with driving performance skiffs. Starting from lasers at the age of about 13, i progressed to 29ers, International 14s, 49ers, and one exciting day of sailing an Aussie 18. I thought i was a pretty dang good skipper, but as everyone who has attempted a foiling moth can attest to, its an entirely different beast, and sailing one is one of the most humbling experiences a sailor can imagine.

Once you’ve gotten past the initial trouble of just sitting in it without tipping over, that’s when the real difficulty begins. As you bear away and accelerate to around 8kts, the foils start to work, and you feel yourself starting to lift up. I swear it’s magic. All noise fades away, hull drag disappears, you accelerate rapidly, and for about 2 seconds, you’re flying. Before you know it, your apparent wind catches up with you, and mother nature unceremoniously dumps you back into the water. It was going so well! What happened? Well, in the first 2 seconds of foiling you nearly double your boatspeed, and suddenly you feel as though you’ve run into a 30 degree header. My first thought was, Dang, gotta watch out for those headers. On my second attempt, i figured out it wasn’t a header, and was able to get the boat up on foils and stable. On a reach in 12 kts of breeze, i nearly broke my top speed record over water, and my second thought was: OK, now how the f*** do I slow down!

Nearly a year has passed now, and the effortless speed and silence of foiling hasn’t yet failed to impress and thrill me. In the first year, I thought i had seen some pretty gnarly stuff. I’ve capsized to weather countless times, pitchpoled while sailing close hauled, fallen off and watched my boat sail 100 feet away from me, still on its foils. I’ve wrapped myself around the shrouds, walked on water, survived a day of variable 15-27 kts and gone so fast that all i could do was pray and shout obscenities about how things were going to end. Despite the fact that it weighs in at 97 lb, and somehow manages to carry my fat 200 lb ass above the water at blistering speeds, it has somehow always managed to hold together… until now.

With the huge amounts of vang needed to bend the windsurfer style mast and support the leech, combined with the terribly shallow vang angle, I’ve always wondered what kinds of loads my 32:1 vang purchase system puts on my boat. I guess now i know.

In about 18 kts of breeze, I headed into a tack, and was caught off guard by the boom shooting into my head as I tried to cross under it. After a couple of minutes of sailing and rubbing the bump forming on my head (during which near disaster and full failure were quite feasible options) I saw this and cringed. Holy crap, how long has that been there!!! Not great timing since I’m working towards Moth Worlds in Hawaii in Sept. Looks like I’ve got a few late nights ahead of me. Lucky for me, I’ve got a training partner with the skills and materials to save my ass.

Thanks Jimmer! See you tonight. I’ll bring the midnight oil. -Ryan.