When I was asked to write about my favourite boat I had to think for a minute — should I write about the boat I sail most weeks, which I do really enjoy, or my outright favourite? That, without contest, is the International Moth. Okay, it’s not the most practical of craft — there’s not even room for your sandwiches, but when it comes to sailing experiences, nothing can match it.
Of course I’m talking about the thrills of foiling sailing — which some people think will become the norm in our sport in the future, but I think cost and practicality will limit foiling’s reach.
You see, unfortunately you do have to work for your pleasure — launching a foiling Moth is a bit of a performance…you carry the boat on its side and wade into the water until it’s deep enough for the foils (if you’re short like me, that means up to your chest!). Then you right the boat and scramble over the wide wing. Your challenge doesn’t end there. Sailing out when "low riding" (that’s before you can get up enough speed to get the boat flying above the water on its foils) is pretty tricky and involves some nimble footwork.
If you are learning to sail a foiling Moth you have to expect the odd swim, so this isn’t for people who don’t like the water. But once you get going there really is nothing like it, and it’s easier than you might think.
The boat gradually lifts up out of the water and the whole world goes very silent — suddenly you realise you are flying above the waves, rather than slicing through them, and as you lean against the force of the sail with your bodyweight, the experience is closer to windsurfing than conventional dinghy sailing. The boat transforms from tippy balancing ball to a graceful craft that is a delight to handle and surprisingly stable. Turning the corners presents more of a challenge and takes a while to master whilst staying upright; then the next challenge is to stay upright and foiling. But you won’t sail anything more exhilarating or exciting, which is why the class has attracted such a strong international following.
There are a number of places you can try foiling, but Pro Vela in Spain-based Mar Menor makes a speciality out of its courses – with the advantage that the water is warm due to a high salt content.