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Mackay Boats' new Bieker Moth delivers straight out of box at 2019 Worlds

by Richard Gladwell, 4 May 2020 22:48 PDT 2 May 2020
Scott Babbage sailed a Bieker Moth by Mackay Boats to fourth overall - 2019 Chandler MacLeod Moth World Championship © Martina Orsini

High profile Olympic boatbuilder Mackay Boats, have added the Bieker Moth to their line-up that has won 30 Olympic medals and 140 world championships. As would be expected the Bieker Moth has been given that special Mackay Boats touch.

Mackay Boats new production foiling Moth, the Bieker Moth, made its mark at the 2019 Worlds, last December at Mounts Bay in Perth.

Seattle based designer, Paul Bieker linked up with former Mackay Boats employee James Gell, top moth sailor Scott Babbage (AUS), and 18ft skiff sailor turned America's Cup design engineer Riley Dean (NZL), to develop the initial concept.

Given that pedigree, it is perhaps not surprising that Mackay's production Moth had six boats in the top 15 overall at last December's World Championship in Perth. Top place getter for Mackay Boats was America's Cup champion Kyle Langford, in second overall, with Scott Babbage two places behind in fourth. The series attracted a 122 entry fleet of past world Moth champions, America's Cup sailors and Olympians.

That is quite an achievement for a production boat competing in a class that attracts anyone who fancies themselves as a boat whisperer, and is given plenty of scope to ply their design and engineering talent in a restricted international class.

"We got into building the Bieker Moth in July, and then had the worlds in Perth in December. We had very good results - our boats seemed to be very quick out of the box" says Dave McDiarmid, a Director of Mackay Boats, who is responsible for the operations and fit-out at Mackay Boats.

"We have taken the original boat and concept and have brought it under the Mackay brand. Currently, we have five people assigned to the Moth production, building two boats per month of the very labour intensive 11fter."

McDiarmid is no mean boat-whisper himself, being the first Kiwi to win the coveted JJ Giltinan Trophy for 18 ft skiffs, in 44 years, and then winning twice more. The 18ft skiff, a restricted design, is a class very much like the Moth which embraces boat engineers and designers, keen to try their ideas against others of their ilk.

Babbage was the initiator of the Moth project, wanting to have a no-compromise boat,, and was joined by America's Cup designers/builders James Gell, Riley Dean and Paul Bieker. Building from his home in Tauranga, Gell produced ten of the Bieker designed Moths before joining the Mackay team mid-way through July 2019. From there James and the Mackay team, lifted the boat to a new level which is now the Bieker Moth by Mackay Boats.

"Scott Babbage also continued to have a lot of input to the project when Mackay’s took over production. He knew how the controls worked and how to make them more efficient - with gearings and ratios," McDiarmid recalled.

Principal changes made included the development of a solid wing option to reduce aero drag and to make the boat faster to tack and gybe. The solid wing developed by Mackay also allows sailors to impart kinetic energy into the boat in tacks and gybes.

Other changes relate to the fit-out and take-up systems together with a better aero fairing aft of the mast over the various control systems which reduces aero-drag.

The foils also supplied by Mackays, on the production boat, are designed by Paul Bieker.

Specialist Bieker Moth building team

The building process for the Moth is completely different from the Olympic classes.

"We're using Nomex core and pre-preg skin construction", McDiarmid explains.

"The main difference is that the whole layup is pre-preg - so the lamination procedure is different and takes a lot longer for our builders. With this, has come the need to train a specialised Moth building team which have skills quite different to the skills needed by our specialised 470 and 49er production teams.”

The total labour hours are significantly higher building a Moth compared to the other boats we build. This is due to the many different parts making up the boat, and the time needed to laminate and then cook each pre-preg part, before assembling and joining everything together.

"We had good results in the 2019 Moth World Championships, with Kyle Langford finishing second overall, with Scott Babbage 4th, Matthew Chew 8th, along with 12th, 13th and 15th places, giving us six boats in the top 15 overall," says McDiarmid.

Olympic Gold Medalist and America's Cup Champion, Tom Slingsby was the overall winner sailing a heavily modified production boat.Six out of the top 15 overall were Bieker Moths by Mackay Boats.

"Scott Babbage (4th overall) was using a boat sent straight out of the Mackay factory to the Worlds. Same with Matthew Chew (8th overall)," says McDiarmid. "Their two boats were sent directly from the factory to the worlds for those two sailors, so it was impressive to see how both sailors jumped straight into their new boats and got results.”

"The last worlds saw a big jump in performance - most people were sitting on 20kts upwind and in low-mode Kyle Lanford was getting to 24kts."

"We're very happy with our platform," he added.

Off the back of the Perth results, McDiarmid says their order books and building spots were "pretty much filled" up to the next World Championships, in September in Weymouth.

For more information on the Bieker Moth by Mackay Boats click here

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