Fly my pret­ties

There are 160,000 species of moth in the world, which makes them one of the most suc­cess­ful of in­sects. There has ob­vi­ously been some se­ri­ous evo­lu­tion tak­ing place over mil­lions of years to per­fect this abun­dant de­sign.

Boating NZ - - Contents - BY MATT VANCE

An all-car­bon foil­ing Moth is ex­cite­ment plus.

But the next step in the evo­lu­tion of the B moth is a big one and it is oc­cur­ring in the un­likely lo­ca­tion of a small garage some­where north of Tau­ranga. The Bieker Moth is species num­ber 160,001 and it is a back­yard project only in lo­ca­tion. In­side the rough­cast garage is a pow­er­ful com­bi­na­tion of great de­sign and lead­ing-edge boat-build­ing that’s set to take on the hi-tech world of foil­ing moths.

James Gell has been build­ing boats for more than 15 years and has spent most of his ca­reer pro­duc­ing per­for­mance yachts. His cre­ations in­clude ev­ery­thing from off- shore rac­ing yachts to Olympic classes. His nat­u­ral fo­cus has al­ways been at the hi-tech end of de­sign and con­struc­tion.

LSF Com­pos­ites was founded soon after the 2017 Amer­ica’s Cup, dur­ing which James worked for the Soft­bank syn­di­cate. Hav­ing worked for the best in the busi­ness and seen their pas­sion for the foil­ing Moth, James spot­ted a niche for an in­no­va­tive leap in the class. De­spite con­tin­u­ous de­vel­op­ment in a class known for its in­no­va­tion, the Moth plat­form has been rel­a­tively static for over 20 years.

With the help of Lead De­signer Paul Bieker, De­sign Engi­neer Ri­ley Dean and sailor Scott Bab­bage, the new species of Moth has evolved at LSF Com­pos­ites.

“The Bieker Moth could have been an in­cre­men­tal im­prove­ment on ex­ist­ing boats, but we de­cided on a more am­bi­tious path,” said James as we stood out­side his hum­ble garage where the first pro­to­type was built. Be­hind him is boat num­ber two nearly com­pleted, ly­ing in two half-moulds.

While the hull may seem a largely re­dun­dant part of a foil­ing moth, it is crit­i­cal in help­ing the whole plat­form take off in mar­ginal fly­ing con­di­tions. The Bieker Moth has a com­par­a­tively high-vol­ume dis­place­ment and low free­board pro­file shape for good low ride han­dling and easy take-off.

The cen­tre­line-joined hull is con­structed in pre-preg car­bon fi­bre over a Nomex core. The struc­tural heart of the hull, around the mast base, foil case and wings, has some very sharp look­ing com­pos­ite de­sign. The hull ends be­yond this zone are a skinny .172mm thick, which makes for an ex­tremely light six-kilo­gram hull plat­form.

The re­al­ity of the de­sign is that the hull is one with all the other com­po­nents, which makes it a plat­form rather than a hull as such. The plat­form con­cept min­imises aero­dy­namic drag and heel­ing mo­ment, with min­i­mal tram­po­line area. Stiff, sin­gle-piece wing beams lo­cated in re­bated deck sock­ets max­imise ef­fec­tive beam when heeled to wind­ward through a dis­tinc­tive curved, high-an­gled shape. They are con­structed as a sin­gle piece us­ing a blad­der mould­ing and high-mod­u­lus pre-preg car­bon.

“The beauty of our set-up is that we can cus­tomise com­po­nents of the boat very eas­ily, as Moths tend to get tuned to their skip­per’s weight and style,” ex­plained Gell as we looked at a hik­ing wing that was made slightly wider to pro­vide a more com­fort­able perch for one of his clients.

The new boat has been de­signed with a deck-sweep­ing rig in mind. This deck lay­out al­lows for a long deck/sail seal, which ef­fec­tively cre­ates an end­plate ef­fect rather like that achieved by a wind­surf­ing rig. A con­cealed con­trol sys­tem and con­trol line con­fig­u­ra­tion makes for a clean deck lay­out, which will be easy to use by feel rather than look­ing for the right string while trav­el­ling at 30 knots.

Be­cause of the strength of the plat­form and the lower mast height, the rig can dis­pense with the tra­di­tional struts and reap the ad­van­tages of a deck-sweep­ing foot to the sail. Al­ter­na­tively, any of the ex­ist­ing class mast and sail com­bi­na­tions can be fit­ted in what is re­ferred to in the hi-tech world as ‘back­ward com­pat­i­bil­ity’.

The foils, their shape and their stiff­ness, are a large part of the suc­cess of any mod­ern Moth de­sign. The sin­gle-piece foils are cured at high tem­per­a­ture and pres­sure in an au­to­clave us­ing pre­ci­sion al­loy moulds. They are avail­able in high or ul­tra-high mod­u­lus layups, which make them the stiffest in the cur­rent Moth fleet.

This stiff­ness and the added length of the ver­ti­cal com­po­nent of the foil means that the boat can fly higher out of the wa­ter than cur­rent de­signs and it has a big­ger ver­ti­cal range to deal with the ef­fects of de­cel­er­a­tion dur­ing foil­ing tacks and the in­ter­fer­ence caused by larger waves while sail­ing down­wind.

With a high-mod­u­lus ap­proach, the foils have been re­duced in sec­tion thick­ness, which is a fur­ther re­duc­tion in drag over ex­ist­ing foil sec­tions in the class. This high-as­pect, thin foil

The Bieker Moth could have been an in­cre­men­tal im­prove­ment on ex­ist­ing boats, but we de­cided on a more am­bi­tious path...

sec­tion ex­tends to the hor­i­zon­tal wings, which look like those of a hitech model glider. All up, the fully rigged pro­to­type comes in at just over 35 kilo­grams fully rigged, which is light even by Moth stan­dards.

The pro­to­type hit the wa­ter in late July with top Moth sailor Scott Bab­bage at the helm.

“It was a ner­vous time for me as there was a squall line ap­proach­ing but, un­usu­ally for a pro­to­type, noth­ing broke on the first out­ing, which is a good sign,” said Gell.

The video footage shows the dis­tinc­tive high-winged, high-rid­ing of the Bieker Moth and the abil­ity to use the ex­tra height for lever­age over the pow­er­ful foils. The next few months will see pro­duc­tion move out of the garage and into a fac­tory, while the new Bieker Moth will un­dergo ex­ten­sive on-wa­ter test­ing be­fore it is re­leased into the wild to com­pete with the other 160,000 species of moth.

LEFTThe pro­to­type foil­ing at speed on Tau­ranga Har­bour. RIGHTPre-preg car­bon is light and strong. Deck con­trols are de­signed to use by feel.

BE­LOWRig­ging the Bieker Moth. James Gell has been build­ing mostly high-per­for­mance sail­ing yachts for 15 years. RIGHTFrom L to R: Lanna Gell, Scott Bab­bage, Ri­ley Dean and James Gell at the launch.

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