Classic Moths — & More

One of the many happy surprises to me at the recent WOOD Regatta was the strong showing by the Classic Moth class — seven boats in all.

Classic Moths at the WOOD Regatta

Classic Moths at the WOOD Regatta

(All photos courtesy George Albaugh).  In this photo, you can see the different design approaches in the four boats pictured.

The Moth class has an interesting history — for all its life, it has been a development class, not a one-design.  From the class website:

Classic Moth Boats are a class of small fast singlehanded racing sailboats that originated in the US in 1929 by Joel Van Sant in Elizabeth City, NC. The Classic Moth is a monohull development class using a modified version of the International Moth rule in effect pre 1969. With an eleven foot over-all length, a maximum beam of 60 inches, a minimum hull weight of 75 pounds, 72 Sq Ft sail area, and very few other restrictions a Classic Moth can be a skiff, pram, scow, skinny tube, dinghy, or any combination thereof. The Classic Moth Boat is an ideal class for amateur designers builders and tinkerers, and can be easily built from inexpensive materials.

If you wake up in the middle of the night with a novel idea for hull shape, you can leap out of bed, race down to your garage, build it and then find out at the next regatta if your idea is hot or not. Freedom of design sets Moths apart from the clorox bottle (one-design) crowd. Instead of the one design controlling who sails successfully, we design and build Classic Moths that fit our size, ability, taste, skills, artistic expression, and pocketbook.

To broaden the appeal to race all types of Classic Moths, we have created three divisons within the class. At major regattas, all Classic Moths race together but are scored in three different divisions; a Gen 2 division for full on narrow waterline, low wetted surface designs, a Gen 1 division for more stable, higher wetted surface designs, and a Vintage division for restored Moths built before 1950.

Presently, Classic Mothboats race in many locations up and down the east coast of the United States. Regattas are currently held in Brigantine, NJ; Portsmouth, VA; Chestertown, MD; Cooper River, PA; Augusta, GA; Norfolk, VA; Elizabeth City, NC; Charleston, SC., and St. Petersburg, FL.”

Here’s a photo of one of my favorites, MINT:



What’s her story?  From George Albaugh’s website:

“Next weekend [this was in May — Carl] Rock Hall Yacht Club will host the Wooden Boat Magazine’s “WOOD Regatta”.  This regatta is open to just about any small sailing dinghy, provided the boat is constructed from wood.  Team Albaugh will be taking our wood Europe design Moth (GYPSY) and also a Moth named MINT.  MINT was designed and built by Bill Lee down in Miami, Florida over the winter of 1953.  Bill had started building Moths in the late 1940s after getting out of the service at the end of the war.  His Moth designs became ever faster with each successive boat but he couldn’t quite break through to the winner’s circle.  By 1952 he was on the verge of getting out of Moth racing.  He changed his mind when he read in the newspaper that fellow Miami Moth sailor Lewis Twitchell had won the World Moth Boat Championship in 1953 up at Norfolk Yacht and Country Club.  Bill realized that Twitchell’s win would move the next World Championship regatta to Miami YC, Twitchell’s home club.  With that in mind Bill decided to make one more attempt at designing a winner.  He didn’t have a shop to build his boat in so he build MINT in the bedroom of the small house he then owned.  He later allowed as how that probably contributed to his divorce but, never the less, the boat was completed in time for the 1954 World Championship.  Although Bill didn’t win the Worlds in 1954, MINT, with Bill at the helm, did place in the top five.  Bill raced MINT for a couple more years and then sold the boat to an up and coming new sailor named Ken Klare.  With Ken in the hot seat MINT finally showed her potential and won the World Champion in 1958 and again in 1959.  In 1960 the Worlds were held in France and Ken couldn’t afford to ship MINT overseas.  Instead he raced the boat at the Nationals and won against stiff local competition.  Ken then sold the boat in order to raise money to attend college.  MINT malingered in the hands of mediocre racers for a few seasons and was next bought by Mac Allen.  Mac was a hot Comet class racer and remembered from previous regattas that MINT was a fast Moth.  It happened that Mac Allen’s club, the Little Egg Yacht Club in Beach Haven, NJ was going to host the 1964 North American Moth Championship.  Mac put aside his Comet and entered MINT in his first and only Moth Regatta and won.  Afterwards, Mac put the Moth into storage and went back to racing Comets.  MINT disappeared and it took me an age to track Mac Allen down.  He was living in Florida in the winter and in Vermont during the summer.  MINT was stored in a barn on his farm in Vermont.  In 1992 Mac gave me the boat.  At that point MINT, although in an unmolested time capsule state, needed a deck-off restoration.  Not being a particularly good craftsman I enlisted the  help of Merv Wescoat and Don La Rosee to redeck MINT during the following winter while I repaired cracks in the hull and refinished the boat.  In the meantime I managed to track down Bill Lee who had retired from working at the Challenger Marine Corporation and moved from Miami to Key Largo.  About that time we had just started holding a Mid-Winter Classic Moth Regatta at St. Petersburg, Florida and I loaned MINT back to Bill Lee in the hopes that he would come race with us.  Although he did sail the boat occasionally, after a couple years Bill told me that he was too old to race anymore and to come get the boat.  While MINT was back in his shop Bill replaced the transom and built a new boom.  There’s nothing quite like having the original designer/artist/builder be a part of the restoration of a beautiful boat!  I visited Bill several more times after retrieving MINT from his shop.  Before he passed away Bill gave me the scale half model that he’d carved while designing the boat back in ’53 and also his fifth place trophy from the 1954 World Championship Regatta. Since completion of her restoration MINT has been in resting, like fine wine, in my boat house waiting for an appropriate event to enter.  I’ve decided that the WOOD Regatta is that event.”

And check out the rocker on the winning Moth, John Zseleczky’s Y2K BUG:



I know if I had a hole in my fleet, I’d be filling it with one of these.  Some day….

To learn more, please click on the links above.  And feel free to comment below.

On an entirely different front, here’s a very nice video from Australia: Chef Tetsuya’s New Wooden Boat

This entry was posted in My Wooden Boat of June 2011 and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Classic Moths — & More

  1. Carl: Plans for the Mistral design (like Y2K BUG) are available. The Mistral is an easily built stitch and glue version of Benoit Duflos’ elegant but difficult to build Moth design from the 1960s. The Duflos dominated Moth Boat racing for nearly a decade and was competitive in both the low and high aspect sail plan eras.

    While easy to build, I must caution that the Mistral is challenging to sail due to her narrow waterlines. Those who think a Laser is tender need not apply. For the sake of comparison, a laser will remain upright if left unattended at the dock. A Mistral will not. Interested parties can contact me.


  2. William Duffield says:

    Regarding CMBA regatta locations, you’re close, but Cooper River is not in PA, but across the Delaware River from Philadelphia in Collingswood, New Jersey.

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