x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Moths descend on Dubai waters

Thirteen of the world's top 20 Moth Class sailors will take to the Arabian Gulf on Tuesday for the Moth World Championships.

Kerstin Sommer trains with his Moth ahead of the Moth World Championships.
Kerstin Sommer trains with his Moth ahead of the Moth World Championships.

DUBAI // Thirteen of the world's top 20 Moth Class sailors will take to the Arabian Gulf on Tuesday for the Moth World Championships. Held in the UAE for the first time, competitors will be based at Dubai Offshore Sailing Club (DOSC) for the week-long event and Chris Graham, one of the first people to sail a Moth in the country two years ago, is on the organising committee.

"It's a pretty significant development for Dubai," said Graham, who is ranked world No 13 in the Moth Class. "Dubai is making a name for itself in global sailing and there has been a lot of interest from all over the world." Moths are small, single-handed sailing boats, resembling the insect that gave them their name. They have been in existence since the 1930s but in the last few years have enjoyed a renaissance.

Part of the appeal is that underneath the main body of the Moth, usually hidden by the water, is a hydrofoil. If there is enough wind the Moth rises up on its foil and, with so little of the boat causing friction on the water, can reach very high speeds. As a "development class", Moths are also attractive to sailors because they can tinker with their craft for extra speed or manoeuvrability during competition.

"Sailing a Moth is at the extreme end of the sport," said Graham, who has now competed in two world championships, including the 2009 renewal in Oregon when he claimed his 13th rank. "Unofficially, a Moth has probably hit around 30 knots. The only things that come close in terms of speed are 18ft skiffs and the catamarans and trimarans seen in the America's Cup, but those will cost around US$200million (Dh734m) to build."

A Moth cannot be bought for pocket change either; a top-of-the-range competition model will cost around $20,000, but there is a healthy second-hand market, and boats are bought and sold for about $5,000. "You find that most of the top Moth sailors in the world are also champions at other classes of sailing," said Graham. "If you look down the list of the top 50 in the world you will see many full-time professionals, Olympic champions and world champions from various fleets."

The world No 1, Bora Gulari of the US, is a champion Melges 32 sailor, while the Moth world No 7, Australia's Scott Babbage, already holds the world 29er crown. This, said Graham, is not only because Moth sailing is highly technical, but also because sailors who reach the top on one class may find a new challenge in the Moth class. "If you do lots and lots of sailing in one class, you may become a little jaded after a while," he said. "The Moth offers a lot of excitement as well as the chance to influence your boat's performance not just through your skill on the water, but design on the land."

Graham trains around three days every week on the waters off DOSC and runs and visits the gym in order to prepare his body for the physical challenge of the World Championship. He estimates that for every 10 hours spent sailing, he spends two to three hours tinkering with his boat in the workshop. "You just get these ideas and try them out," he said. "They don't always go to plan, I broke my boat recently because I was trying something new in the water but you always experiment."

stregoning@thenational.ae