Anarchist Josef Andresen takes us into his world of the Moth…
Just 12 months ago I flew to Miami and spent 3 days on Biscayne Bay, jumping into the world of Moth sailing. My initiation was much more swimming than sailing, ending up bruised and exhausted yet wanting more. However on the 3rd day, just hours before heading home, I found myself foiling (flying) over the water for mere seconds in what seemed like an eternity.
I was hooked on this new sailing challenge and purchased a used boat several months later. With a busy work schedule and little experience or confidence, I found limited opportunity to get on the water except on a couple of occasions with a small cadre of devoted local Moth sailors who are now growing in number.
Was it time to head back to Miami for a jumpstart? March weather forecast: air temperature, 86 degrees, water temperature 77 degrees. Lets go! After an email to Anthony Kotoun, U.S. Moth Nationals champion and East Coast Moth Mach 2 sales agent, I got a heads up that Victor Diaz-de-Leon would be happy to spend some time on the water with me.
Victor has an interesting story: Venezuelan born, sailing since age 6, he immigrated to the US as a teenager and attended St. Mary’s College, majoring in economics. Sailing is his passion and he is an up and coming rock star in the sailing world who if you haven’t heard about yet, you soon will. Sailing on “Catapult”, second place boat at the J70 worlds in Newport, Rhode Island this past Fall, calling tactics for 2nd place finisher, 12y/o Gannon Troutman in the J70 fleet at Quantum Key West Race Week 2015 and sailing regularly in San Diego in the Etchells fleet, Victor has a busy schedule. He was in San Diego but had 2 days free and agreed to meet me in Florida.
We met up at the Miami Rowing Club beach. Short in stature, with a bigger than life smile, piercing green eyes and a full beard hiding his 23 youthful years, Victor gave me an enthusiastic hand shake and hug, “Welcome to Miami! You should have a great time with Thomas, Ainsley and Tyler. They are all learning and are here to sail their Moths!” His boat was just 3 months old so I brought my own foils to use since this is one of the more expensive things that can break. Like setting up a Formula One race car, I watched closely as Victor carefully assembled the foils and fine-tuned the rig. “Let’s tighten up the rig and reinforce everything since I know there will be a few crashes”, he said, smiling.
To keep things simple, Victor launched the Moth off the beach and I jumped in the VSR RIB and followed him out to the central bay, dodging anchored boats along the way. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon with a southwesterly blowing at about 12 to 15 mph. I watched in awe as he foiled across the water effortlessly. Now it was my turn. I came up along side and caught the Moth’s wing on her port side.
“Ready?” I nodded and jumped over the wing and landed in the center cockpit, grabbing the mainsheet quickly. The boat came to life, powering up immediately with a rush of water underneath. Suddenly I felt weightless as the boat rose up out of the water and I was foiling quickly away from our transfer point.
As quickly as this all happened, I found myself falling to windward and splashing into the warm water of Biscayne Bay. I hung on to the windward wing and grabbed for the mainsheet, pulling myself back into the cockpit. Like a horse out of the starting gate, the boat lurched forward again and I was foiling forward 50 to 100 feet at a time.
Four hours passed since we left the beach and the sun was beginning to set behind the western Miami cityscape. After each capsize, it was getting a bit harder to climb back aboard. Victor appreciated my enthusiasm but saw that it was time to call it a day. We traded places and headed for shore. “Let’s meet up tomorrow with everyone and review the video and have a debriefing”, he suggested. “Sounds good” I replied.
The next morning we all gathered around the TV monitor and watched replays of the previous day. Time after time, I was rising up out of the water, foiling forward and then quickly falling to windward, back into the water. “Let’s look at what happens to your righting moment when you start foiling”, Victor said. He pulled out a series of sketches showing that the center of gravity and righting moment dramatically shifts from low riding to foiling resulting in increasing windward heel. “As your speed increases, the apparent wind moves forward and you need to trim in quickly to compensate”, Victor summarized. Now I had a better idea and visual of what was happening and how to respond.
We headed out on to Biscayne Bay mid afternoon as the wind picked up; another day of perfect conditions. Now it was my turn to take the tiller. Balance, trim in, hike out and I immediately felt the quick acceleration, elevation and then silence. The only sound is the wind and a faint tapping sound of the wand hitting the surface of water, instantly adjusting the main foil flap angle of attack. I start to fall to windward. “TRIM, TRIM!” I hear shouted behind me. This quickly jolts my attention to our “sailing 101” discussion a few hours earlier. I pull in on the mainsheet, the boat immediately rebalances and locks into its trajectory. I look back over my shoulder. Victor and the blue RIB is suddenly several hundred yards behind and I start laughing realizing that I’ve just stumbled forward in my learning curve. “Nice Job” Victor shouts as he finally catches up as I let the boat settle back down on the water surface, low riding again. Before he can say another word, I’m gone. Foiling 300, 400, then 500 yards at a time!
Hours pass and the sun is low in the sky. I’m exhausted but elated at the same time. I can’t wait another 12 months for more of this. The fleet moves North in the next few months. Newport, Rhode Island here I come!