Thursday, November 12, 2015

Concours de Plans pour Moth Classique lancé par "Le Chasse Marée"

The Design Competition for Classic Moths sponsored by the French traditional yachting magazine, Le Chasse Marée, September, 2001

I was under the mistaken impression that there were only two singlehanded dinghy design competitions over the last fifty or so years; the three IYRU singlehanded trials in the 1960's that would select the Contender to replace the Finn (NOT!), and the more informal singlehanded trial weekend in 1970; the American TeaCup regatta sponsored by the One-Design and Offshore Yachtsman magazine in which the Laser, and the cut-down Flying Junior, renamed the Banshee were introduced.

It was up to a transplanted Frenchman on the Left Coast, Dominique Banse, to correct me. He sent along a 2001 article from the French traditional yachting magazine, Le Chasse Marée which reported on a singlehanded design competition they hosted for Classic Moths. The regatta was run by the sailing club, ASPTT Voile de Nantes, and over twenty Moths showed up; some old, some new. Eighteen different Moth designs had been submitted to the magazine but only six new Classic Moths actually showed up to test their designers thinking on the race course. Unfortunately several of the new ones were not ready when they rolled in on the Friday and it took the midnight oil to get them on the water. Not the best way to prove your racing mettle!

Two of the designs, Mariposa and Francois Vivier's Moth Grand Largue were aimed more at being a lively daysailor rather than an all-out racer.

Below are some of the photos taken by Marc Morell during this Classic Moth regatta.

The French vintage Moth Nantais is very similar to the American Dorr-Willey and Ventnor vintage Moths. The red hull Nantais has an enormous bubble-deck (which was one way to keep these small dinghies dry before the invention of bailers and double-bottoms). Mariposa, which was featured in a blog post on Earwigoagin is the blue hull on the right.

Marc Morell

The purple, transom-bowed, plywood, V-shaped Bilbon (foreground, designed by Christophe Couton) was the best of the new designs at the competition but I'm guessing it was still off the pace compared to the Olympic Europe Dinghy (leading to the left).

Marc Morell

The transom-bowed Swiss Fragniére was the most popular French Moth of the late 1950's to mid- 1960's.  Here is one with a wooden mast approaching the finish line. A 1960's video short featuring some Fragniére's can be seen here.

Marc Morell

On shore before the racing, from left to right;
  • The older, 1960's Swiss Fragniére, 
  • Julia, the yellow Moth modeled after the Laser shape, designed by Didier Laveille. 
  • The purple Bilbon from Christophe Couton. 
  • Another new design, the black hull Berga' Moth put together by Jerome Amouraben from the Nantes School of Architecture.

Marc Morell

Julia, the Moth with Laser-like hull sections.

Marc Morell

The English translation of the Chasse Marée article on their Classic Moth design competition. (Again, many thanks to Dominique Banse for working hard to get this one right!):


Tillerman said...

The America's Tea Cup Regatta was in 1970. The Laser was certainly there and the Banshee may well have been. But are you sure the Force 5 was? According to Wikipedia and the Force 5 Class website, the Force 5 was designed in 1972.

Alden Smith said...

The red and gray moth in the first photo makes me wonder whether the ancestor of all Moths is the Barnegat Bay Sneak Box.

George A said...

Fragniére's Moth design is also known as "Microcosmos". This design was the 1955 European Moth Champion.

Tweezerman said...


Right on both counts. I'll make the corrections. I wish I had the original article on the Tea Cup from OD-OY in my possession but I don't, so in this case I decided to wing it while typing away. Thanks for spotting it. I'm almost certain the Banshee was there but, again I'm going from memory - not 100% guaranteed for accuracy.

Tweezerman said...


The Sneak Box has a dish shape where the pre-WWII Moths in the United States ended up with scow bows and a V-shaped hull. The French Nantais also has a V-shaped hull. This is not to say the Sneak Box didn't have some influence over the original Van Sant Mothboat but nothing has been written to indicate that was the case.

Chris Thompson said...

I'm late to the party, but thanks for posting the article and thanks to Dominique for providing the translation and information.

It was interesting to see the article claim there were nine thousand International Moths in Australia and about 4000 in the UK, Germany and Switzerland. The writer then asked "is there a lack of amateur thrill seekers in France?"

It's funny how things like this, which put our fellow sailors in a fairly unflattering light, often pop up. The claim about Australian Moth numbers is completely misleading; there were just 320 registered Moths in the country at the time the boats that were being discussed were around, and the number was dropping fast. The Australians are also less likely than the French to get their thrills by sailing cats - something that Australians sometimes use to accuse other Aussie sailors of lacking the thrill-seeking spirit.

Sadly, such put-downs of sailors seem to be all pervasive among sailing journalists and the industry these days. Such a lack of respect for other people on the water must be a major cause of the fading numbers in the sport.

Chris Thompson said...

PS - yes, the Banshee was at the America's Teacup regatta, and finished the racing equal on points with the Laser. The Force 5 wasn't there.

Tweezerman said...

Thanks Chris,

Particularly with the Classic Moth, where many are amateur built, there was definitely some discrepancy between registered numbers and numbers that were built. (In the U.S., for example, we had Boy Scout Moths which were used in summer camps but were never registered for racing.) Conversely, plans were sold with a registration number but never built -- I estimate maybe a 10 to 1 ratio of plans sold to boats built. Sometimes blocks of numbers were assigned to a builder but never used up. It all adds up, as you point out, to an incorrect population count, most likely an inflated number.

When reading between the lines, the author from Chassse_Marée, which is the French traditional boating magazine, was upset at the loss of experimentation and amateur boat building (which this Classic Moth design competition was an attempt to bring back) and not so much concerned that most French dinghy sailors were not gravitating towards something for "thrill seekers" like a 29'er or 49'er or foiler Moth.

Marc said...

Just to congratulate you for the quality of the information and to confirm that I took all the pictures of the post, during the race organized in Suce sur Erdre in September 2001.

I just created a group on Facebook called "Moth50". Please be free to register yourself on it.

All the best

Marc Morell

Tweezerman said...


Made the changes to the post to properly credit you for the photos.