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Classic Moth Boats

By Scott Wolff

Reprint of article appearing in "The Boat Builder" Spring of 1992 Number 32 feature article page 3, by kind permission of Gougeon Brothers, Inc.

The Moth is a development class of one-man sailboats. Moth designers and builders are encouraged to use new ideas and materials to create a faster boat, while adhering to length, sail area, rudder and centerboard requirements. This class of sailboats was first designed by Captain Van Sant in 1930. Originally called 11’ Class, Moths are enjoying a comeback in their city of origin, Elizabeth City, N.C.

The comeback of the Moth was celebrated at the Third annual Classic Moth Boat Regatta September 21, 1991. Seventeen Moth boats from all over the East Coast traveled to Elizabeth City for a four-race series.

The Town has long been considered the birth place of the Moth, and features a recently dedicated Moth park at the end of Main Street. During the regatta, blue "Home of the Moth" banners decorated every light post.

A Moth boat is considered a Classic Moth if it has the lines of pre 1960s Moth design without wings or hiking boards. Also, it must have the lower aspect rig (72 Sq. Ft.) and weigh at least 75 lbs. This weight requirement is an attempt by the recently organized Classic Moth Boat Association to make the order, heavier Moths more competitive against the new replicas made to old designs.

Replicas have proved to be lighter and faster than the original Moth boats, but skipper ability still has a lot to do with winning. Moth skipper Walk Collins of Virginia Beach, VA. said "Moth racing has never been fair, but it has always been fun". Collins tied for first place beside Randall Swan, other skippers sail replicas of a Dorr Willey Moth design. Collins built his own, Swan’s was built by Ted Causey. The second place Moth was a replica as well, this one built and raced by Erky Gregory, who is also a Moth class contact person. The design for Gregory’s replica is available through the Museum of the Albemarle.

The regatta was raced on a triangular course on the Pasquotank River. The breeze was so stiff that two boats capsized before the first gun. Luckily, the wind tapered off a bit so the race was on and the two winners (Swan and Collins) established an early lead. They maintained this lead through all four races.

Many champions of former years were on hand to race and observe. Skipper Chuck Higgins sailed Miss Ines, the last boat Dorr Willey built. These boats set the standard in Moth competition early on and are still competitive. Russel Post was also on hand to witness an early design of his do well in the racing. He vowed to return next year with a boat of his own.