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International Moth Lowriders at the RYA Dinghy Show 2019

by John Edwards 14 Mar 2019 01:00 PDT 2-3 March 2019

Don't let anyone tell you that history isn't important or fun

It was a real pleasure to be invited by the RYA to create a display to provide a physical illustration to the well-received talks by sailing historian David Henshall. The stand attracted so much interest, it has taken a week or more to take stock of everything that happened. The display was two months in the making, with thanks to the guidance from the RYA's Celia Edgington and required a carefully co-ordinated team effort to get everything prepared and delivered to Alexandra Palace in time to assemble the stand.

IMCA-UK Class President from a few blue moons ago, John Butler, despite not being able to attend the show, put together the historical timeline boards of the class from 1928 to the present day, as well as information about restorations and the boats on the stands, the leaflets to distribute and an hour-long video. That included footage from the early 1970's shot on cine film by his father, featuring John, his brother and many others.

Sharing the content on social media has courted controversy and debate from France, the US and Australia, revealing more about the history of the class. This reinforces the need to document and catalogue: the project to organise the Hibbert archive is only just beginning. (Need a GCSE History project, anyone? The new website intmothlowriders.org is a good place to start...)

Five boats were displayed on stands designed and manufactured by Lyndon Beasley with help from Stuart Mander. Stuart's 1968 Shelley "Fido" took pride of place nearest to the main stage. Next along was Lyndon's own and much admired Stockholm Sprite "Dollywaggon Pike", resplendent in sparkly orange paint, which very narrowly avoided being stolen at the end of the Show by... No, I did swear to secrecy, on pain of my Lithium being held hostage...

Then there was the "chicken shed" find of David Iszatt's 1979 World Championship and UK Nationals winning Magnum 3, "Ishudawon". David went on to defend his World title twice more, first in New Zealand and again in Holland. This important boat was located by Ian Marshall with help from David's brother Mike, and was given just a good wipe down and was rigged up before the show, to illustrate how older boats can still be found in good condition.

Occupying the corner spot was my Hungry Tiger, also drawing admiring glances. Mounted on the tallest stand, Paul Buckley's Mistress foiler completed the timeline from the 1960's to the foiling generation. The big gap between the Magnum 3 and Tiger could have been filled with any number of boats in superb condition, such as those restored by the likes of Paul Hignett's painstakingly restored Magnum 8, Katie Hughes's soon to be born-again Skippy (or Phil Henry's), and the list goes on and on. The boats on display, together with the accompanying media, attracted many visitors to the stand. And as a catalyst to reinvigorate Lowrider Moth sailing in the UK, the RYA Dinghy Show could not have been better.

The selection of IMCA Yearbooks and the print out of the boats / clubs database (publicly available on the International Moth Lowriders Facebook page) prompted memories and much discussion. The list of notable visitors was long but includes the following:

Alan Mollatt came along and pointed out that it was he who had originally measured the sail on Ishudawon 40 years ago. A few minutes later, along walks Richard Hargreaves who made that sail mentioned. Having learnt his craft doing summer jobs at Anderson Aerosails, set up on his own as a sailmaker, sandwiched around working for Proctors and influencing them to produce a Moth version of the Alpha section mast with a longer taper. Dick Owens then appears: one of the top Moth sailors from the early 70s from the Medway area which was a hotbed of Moth sailing in those days. He was instrumental in the development of the "Tall Dick" high aspect sail made by Tratman and Lowther in a rented Bristol Church Hall. He also helped develop alloy tube wings as he knew someone (Mike the Pipe) who could bend the right grade of tubing to form the corners. He was with Tony Glover - a good friend of Dick's who also had a string of Moths back in the day.

Dave Cooper then turns up bearing an IMCA-UK membership card indicating him as a joint owner, with his brother Jeremy, of the displayed Shelley "Fido", previously called "Moth Broth", from 1971 till it was found by Stuart Mander a couple of years ago.

Renowned sailmake Steve Goacher stands by Ishudawon and asks when it was built. It turns out that, in early 1979, as a kitchen unit maker, he walks into John Claridge's Lymington workshop to borrow some plywood and leaves with a job. It was a recurring theme, it seems, that JC would take on staff from "casual" visitors. It seems quite likely that Steve had helped build the boat before him, 40 years earlier. JC himself wondered by several times, as did Ian Ridge, a respected Moth designer and builder himself.

Then there were a number of owners previously unknown to the community, such as Martin Whitworth, enquiring about a rig for his as yet unfinished Moth project. He started started construction of his Ghost Rider inspired Moth, to his own design, back in 1972 and now that he is retiring he thinks he will finally have time to finish building it! Tim Humphries, interested in a narrow lowrider and might consider sourcing something like an Axeman 5. Nigel Denchfield, (Magnum 8 owner Martyn's dad) is going to need very little persuasion to build a Shelley, and he was not the only visitor to express interest. Since the show, a number of sets of plans have surfaced on the FB page, which can be updated gently in order to facilitate new homebuilders.

Towards the younger generation, double World Champion Si Payne, who spent more years in Lowriders than he has done foiling, previous National Champion Jason Belben, and Notts County SC stalwarts the PanGalactic GargleBlaster's former keeper Kevin Hope and fellow ex-Tiger sailor Michael Kerslake stopped by, as did Russ Wheeler, Neil Baker... the list goes on and on. We heard wind of 4 unknown scows, a pair of Axeman 5s, a Magnum and a couple of other old boats to add to the list, which was one of the aims of the show.

But it is also important to note the new boats currently being built. Miles James of Abersoch is nearing halfway through a production run of five new hulls to the Axeman 7 design, which is tremendous. That alone bodes well for Lowrider participation at the events planned for 2019 and beyond. The Show provided the opportunity to meet with the Race Officer teams from Graftham SC, Carsington SC and Abersoch Dinghy Week. The challenge is on to bring as many as Lowriders as possible together in 2019 and beyond. Given the number and fantastic condition of the Lowriders, it is hoped that this will succeed.

Lowrider sailors joining IMCA-UK once again, we will be exploring how we could organise events alongside the foilers (but at a respectful distance!). And with the Worlds coming to Weymouth again in 2020, a double Olympic Gold Medallist was heard saying that she could be tempted into a Lowrider Moth, if there was suitable racing going on at some point. I'm sure that the Lowrider Hoarders would consider lending something appropriate for future events and so we'll hold you to that suggestion...

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