Saturday, November 19, 2011

Why a Classic Moth is Better than a Laser

Upon writing a post about Cooper River 2011, I was reminded that I had yet to write a post that I had intended for last year. The post was supposed to be in response to an incident at Cooper River 2010 (as I have mentioned before, this blog is all about timeliness!).

Last year at Cooper River, just before launching my Classic Moth for the day, I was rounding the corner of the clubhouse when I overheard a conversation between two Laser sailors. Both of them were looking over at our congregation of Classic Moths when one of them said;

"I understand why someone would sail a foiler Moth, but I can't understand why someone would sail one of these", as he nodded his head toward our fleet.

I didn't respond, just smiled to myself and kept going. It wasn't the time or place, I had to get ready for the day on the water. But the gauntlet had been thrown down. It just takes me a while to pick it up.

Tillerman has merrily gone down this path before with several posts on "Reasons why such-and-such class is better", the Sunfish/Laser being a target in his post Ten Reasons Why Sunfish are better than Lasers , and then with the Force Five/Laser with Seven Reasons Why Force Fives are Better than Lasers . (Tillerman even had a tongue-in-cheek, self flagellation post, Seven Reasons to Hate Laser Sailors, but that isn't germane to this post.)

I can come up with five strong reasons why I persist in sailing the Classic Moth and not return to the Laser Borg (though you will find me every once in a while racing a Laser.)

  1. Classic Moths are so much Lighter

  2. Every time I sail a Laser I dread carrying an enormously heavy Board Bag to the boat, wrestling an enormously heavy mast with sail attached into the mast tube, heaving a heavy Laser hull onto a dolly, and staggering backwards up the inclined float with the Laser on dolly. Admittedly this may be my age talking but, in reality, I have the Classic Moth to compare it too. The Classic Moth minimum hull weight is 75 lbs (34 kg), though most of my Classic Moths have weighed closer to 90 lbs (41 kg). This is still 40 lbs (18 kg) lighter than a Laser! My heavier Classic Moth aluminum mast weighs 10 lbs - 4.5kg ( (carbon masts are even less). I think a Laser mast is 18 lbs (8kg). My blades, which are wood, nothing special, feel to be 1/2 the weight of a Lasers. All this lightness of a Classic Moth makes the off the water chores of rigging and moving and loading boats that much more enjoyable than a Laser. And on the water, that lightness of the Classic Moth plays into reason #3 below.

  3. My Classic Moth fits Me

  4. The Laser has a flat deck, great for production but very uncomfortable for hiking. The Laser has a very raked rudder which develops a lot of helm fast with any bit of heel. The Laser now has "improved sail controls" but the cleats are still forward of the daggerboard, which is a long way to reach. The Laser has a marginal bailer which, upwind, still leaves the cockpit full of water in a breeze. With the Classic Moth, I can change all this.... or not. If I don't like a flat deck, I can build a different one, or if I like a flat deck, I can build a flat deck. And so on down the line. For the most part, in a Classic Moth, if I don't like it, I can change it. And fitting the boat to me makes it more enjoyable to sail.

  5. The Classic Moth is more fun to sail

  6. Anytime I get into a Laser, it feels like an aircraft carrier compared to a Classic Moth. The Classic Moth, with it's shorter length and lighter weight is just more lively on the water. I have a rudder which is tuned to be very balanced so it has a great feel upwind. Offwind, with it's lighter weight, the Classic Moth lights up in a breeze. There is no doubt that the Laser is considerably faster than the Classic Moth (except maybe in drifting conditions) but I just enjoy sailing the Classic Moth more. A friend of mine said there were two types of sailboat racers; those that were more interested in hard core racing, the intensity and the competition,and those that were more interested in racing boats that have certain appealing characteristics. Throughout my sailing career, I've straddled those two groups but, as I have aged, my interests have slid over from the hard-core racing into "I race in this class because I appreciate how it sails".

  7. Classic Moths are Cheaper

  8. My Maser I picked up for $500 (no rig) and I have another hull in my collection I picked up for $350. Complete Classic Moths with National Championship speed have been had for under $1000. Used Classic Moths going for more than $3000 are unheard of (but if you want to build your own, you'll probably spend around $3000 when all is said and done). Granted we have no professional builder, so it's a little harder to take your check book out and purchase one, but a little leg work will usually find some Classic Moth that will fit your bill.

  9. The Classic Moth People

  10. You stay with a class because you fit in with the people. The Classic Moth is diverse, the people are diverse. And laid back. Because I did the Laser thing in my twenties and I don't need that kind of intensity year round in my sailboat racing. I get tired of talking about that left shift I missed at the weather mark to drop me behind 25 Lasers. I've been missing those shifts for many years and I just as soon talk about that Vintage 1940's Moth you've restored or that Savannah Wedge design you pulled out of retirement, or your trip to Sweden, or tell me about the latest A-cat developments.

Here's John Z's [Gen II Mistral Mothman] reasons why a Classic Moth is better than a Laser:
"I sail both a Laser and a Mistral Classic Moth and racing the Classic Moth is definitely more fun, mainly because Moths are much lighter so they accelerate more. When you're sailing you feel acceleration more than you feel velocity (F=ma). Classic Moths leap frog down the reach legs so we sail triangles a lot.

"Moths also have more controllable rigs. In 20+ knots I can flatten out the Moth sail, put the traveler down and keep blasting along. In a Laser, Radial included, I'm struggling - at 140 lbs.

"I still enjoy the Laser because we sail all summer at my club on Tuesday nights with 15+ boats on the line every week. We only race Moths five or six times a year and it takes some driving (NJ, NC, FL, MD).

"If you like to putter on boats and don't mind driving you should definitely consider the "more fun" boat ...

Click here to have a look at the various designs of Classic Moth - including some you can build!

Photos of some of my Classic Moths:

My Gen II Energizer (mod Stockholm Sprite -plywood) showing some blue masking tape remaining post-painting.

My Gen II Tweezer (strip planked - own design).

My Gen I Maser (Laser cut-down to fit Classic Moth rule).

Why is a Laser faster than a Classic Moth?


tillerman said...

Sounds wonderful. Where is the nearest fleet to me (Rhode Island)?

Tweezerman said...


You're right. The Laser is everywhere, fleets are everywhere (at least in North America). The Classic Moth..not so much...we don't have fleets. We're like the 505's. Individuals who really like the boats and, at regattas, voila! a racing quorum appears. If you want 15-20 boats to race against nearly anywhere in the country, definitely go with the Laser. You want a different sailing experience, there are other classes. Actually, Tillerman you may be a tad too large for the Classic Moth. It is only an 11 foot sailboat after all!

Leisure Log said...

As an owner of a 1968 Moth out here in the Seattle area I can attest to the lack of other Moths (except foilers). However, my own rebuild from a 'free' boat was a $3000 affair and she looks good now. I am toying with the idea of selling but it is a fun boat to sail and the low amount of return on investment keeps it in my garage.