A Wing and a Prayer
A Wing and a Prayer
The Moth Class Measurement Manual states, “Measurers should assume that anything which is not specifically prohibited is permitted.” Making the situation even more confusing is the fact that the Moth Class doesn’t control its own destiny—ISAF does. Since becoming an international class in September of 1972, the Moth class must submit any changes or interpretation of class rules for ratification by ISAF. To date, ISAF has not taken any action regarding wings. Given that ISAF already has experience with wings in both the A and C Class catamarans, I'm assuming that the authority will deem wings to be legal. But ISAF may choose to remove some of the vagaries in the Moth interpretation by mandating their own measurement rules for wings. ISAF's guide to Measurement and Calculation of Sail Area has long been the basis for measuring C-Class wings in the Little Americas Cup, and it could provide some indication of how ISAF will address wing sails in the Moth class. Section 1.1 of the manual states, “The intention is to establish a reliable and simple method of measuring the whole driving area of the sail plan, including the spars, foils, and flaps (or wing sails).” Further, Section 16.2.2 (b) addresses flaps on wing sections, stating, "Devices or fairings added to a spar or wing sail shall be measured as part of that spar or wing sail.” Additionally, 16.2.2 (e) states, “An articulated wing sail, such as that shown in fig.  below, shall be measured as described in 16.2.2...”
In all of this debate, the one point on which nearly everyone can agree is that we want to know if a wing sail can beat the best of the soft sailed Moths. With wing sails taking over the America's Cup, Moth Worlds will surely capture attention far beyond the class aficionados and tech geeks. The event has something for everyone. As Gulari says, “There's a huge importance to the class of having this wing experiment go forward. Tens of thousands of people have seen the pictures and articles about the wings Adam and I have built for this event. Moth wings are what people are talking about, even people far outside of the class. Everyone has the same questions: Will it work? Will it be faster? Will it break? Everyone wants to know if a small wing sail will work on a high performance foiling dinghy. Let's find out. Our class has a phenomenal chance here to solidify its reputation as the class at the leading edge of our sport where this sort of cool stuff happens.”
I commend the Moth class for doing its best to ensure that none of its members feels disenfranchised. But now's the time for the class to embrace its historical spirit of innovation by allowing wing development to take place. By interpreting the class rule to assume that any single wing is one sail, and using the ISAF measurement procedures for wings, development can happen in an organic and transparent way. If wings prove to be durable and faster than soft sails, the marketplace will ultimately find a way to make the technology cost-effective and transportable, in the same way that hydrofoils went from expensive experiment to standard equipment. With top sailors worldwide looking to make their marks in the brave new world of wing sails, the Moth Class can become a breeding ground for future America's Cup sailors, as well as a new generation of speed junkies. In nature, all moths must undergo a transformation. Now's the time for the Moth class to come out of its cocoon and spread its wings.
ISAF has issued a ruling, saying that current Moth class rules don't apply to wing sails. In response, Moth class president Mark Robinson issued an emergency questionnaire to member nations, asking them to pick one of two options on the wing-sail issue:
1. Change the NOR for the 2011 Worlds to allow the two known wings (Bora's and Bear's Object 2 builds) entered to compete in the worlds.
2. Change nothing, which, according to ISAF interpretation, means our present rules will prohibit use of the wings.
The class responded with a solid voice. “The Presidents of all national associations have responded with the vote being 30 in favour of Option 1 and 6 in favour of Option 2," said Robinson in a statement. "We will therefore be proceeding with issuing an amendment to the NOR under the guidance of and with approval from ISAF. Chief Measurer Adam May is currently working with ISAF on the final text and I expect this to be released shortly.”
So the wings shall sail. Expect to see something special beginning in 10 days. Based on the results of the Worlds, the class will then be faced with the more difficult decision of whether to ban wings, or revise the class rules to allow for their development. Expect more fireworks to come!