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Model yachting supremo’s affordable route into foiling Moth sailing

by Mark Jardine 14 Jul 2018 02:04 PDT 14 July 2018
Brad Gibson during the Noble Allen 2018 International Moth UK Championship © Mark Jardine / IMCA UK

Brad Gibson is a huge name in the world of model yachting: a four-time Marblehead class World Champion, two-time One Metre class World Champion and two-time 10 Rater World Champion. On the surface you'd think this as the least likely route into foiling Moth sailing, but Brad has embraced it fully, and shown that entry into the class with a decent boat and modern control systems is far more accessible than you may think.

Brad firstly bought a Bladerider Moth in February 2017 in the Netherlands. It was a ten-year-old boat which had very light use. In his first season Brad sailed the boat with only minor modifications.

"The Bladerider team had set a nice standard with information sheets on what areas could fail, what the weak spots were and what required maintenance. Between that, and reading on the forums where I needed to beef up the boat to get it round the course, I went the whole season without breaking a single thing, so I think it's a pretty good platform to start with," said Brad.

Having sailed the boat for the season, Brad then set about converting the boat over the winter to modernise the control systems and bring the look more up-to-date, which has resulted in a remarkable transformation both in how the boat looks and sails.

"The boat was a nice piece of kit, but I knew it needed some upgrades," explained Brad. "I think what sealed the deal was when I bought a Dremel and needed to use it! Once I started using it, I kept using it, cutting bits out of it, and then thought at some point I'm going to have to stop cutting bits off it and put it back together!

"I had a vision of what I wanted to do and it's nice to look at all the modern boats and speak to the other guys in the fleet who give you all the tips on what needed to be done on it. The main thing was to beef up the area around the mast junction and the kicker as the boats now run much higher loads than what the Bladerider used when it was built and designed.

"I pulled the foredeck off it, took the bulkhead out as the mast wasn't put in very square, reset all of that, put the kicker round the kingpost and added a lot of sleeves inside of that, basically making it as bullet-proof as I thought it needed to be. The mast is now lower, I've added a bow-sprit, the rig is more modern, the control systems are led back to the deck and the foils I've upgraded to were reasonably priced second-hand items from other sailors in the fleet. It's made a massive improvement to the boat."

The other cosmetic change Brad made to the boat was to narrow the deck at the bow, bringing it into line with the modern boats, and this completed the modern look the boat now has.

Brad described his reasoning: "The modern boats don't have that old-school Moth 'lip' around the gunwhale line, which the Bladerider has, so I thought I'd get rid of that as much as I could. When I cut the foredeck off I split it down the middle, took a wedge out of it and narrowed it all in. So apart from it being lower with the mast now lower, it's also a lot narrower and only has a small lip on the bow."

At the Moth UK Nationals the boat has proved to be a revelation to sail, leaving Brad totally enthused after day 3 of the event: "I don't think I've had more fun sailing in my life than I've had today - it was just awesome going downwind. A few of the guys were telling me I had to ride high, so I wound out the adjuster as high as it would go, gritted my teeth and then thought 'Wow, this is working well!'. I had so much fun today I just want to go back out and sail again and again."

This is a remarkably cost-effective route into Moth sailing on a modern platform, but Brad warns you will need to do some work on a boat to get the most out of it: "If you buy a ten-year-old boat then you've got to expect that you'll have to do some work to it. Don't expect that you can jump into it for some fun sailing and nothing's going to break. If you're good with your hands, there's so much help available amongst all the Moth sailors in the fleet, and if you're prepared to have crack at it, put it in a shed and do a little bit of work on it, there is so much value in an old boat that would just be sitting around doing nothing. The basic platform of the Bladerider is lighter than the modern boats of today, so when it's all beefed up it ends up a similar weight to a new boat. The boat is so much better now than how I'm sailing it, so there's so much more fun that I can have out of it. I'd love to see how a decent Moth sailor would go in it!"

When summarising for someone who's sitting on the fence, wondering whether to join in the foiling revolution, Brad was unequivocal in his thoughts: "Just do it. It's the best fun I've ever had sailing."

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