The recent Moth World Championships showcased a lot of on-the-water talent - including a couple of sailors with secret weapons: Doyle’s first ever prototype Moth Sails.
The idea for Moth sails had already been in the works for a while at Doyle - with requests from several places, including other parts of Doyle family and even a university, and Auckland-based sail designer Stefano Nava was already researching and working on designs.
Then Moth sailors Tom Johnson and Kyle Langford got involved, in a way most sailors will relate to - having a chat while sailing. “The project started during the lead up for the 2018 Sydney to Hobart,” recalls Tom. “Kyle and I were on Comanche using the new Doyle Stratis sails, and we said to Moose (Doyle Owner Mike Sanderson) that it would be cool to do a moth sail! He was keen on the idea and put us in touch with Doyle Lake Macquarie and the project started there.”
Once the sailors and the Lake Macquarie team, led by Andrew Gavenlock, were involved, fellow Doyle designer Andrew Lechte also came on board to help the team with the creation and iteration of the sails from Stefano’s original designs.
“It’s truly amazing how well Stefano did right from the start,” says Chris Nicholson, owner of Doyle Lake Macquarie. “He really nailed it with his first version, it gave the boys something they could make and take sailing straight away”
Having the sailors involved was key to the quick turnaround time. “It’s the first time I can remember we’ve had customers on the shop floor helping us cut the sails", laughs designer Andrew Lechte, “but having the boys involved, especially Tom who had previous sailmaking experience, was really helpful for getting great feedback and cutting down the turnaround time.
Both sailors have America’s Cup and Volvo experience under their belts, as well as sailing in the inaugural SailGP, but the moth is a different challenge altogether. For Tom Johnson, it was a great experience working with Doyle and the Lake Macquarie loft. “I really like where the brand is going and how they really like to push it when it comes to development and new ideas! I was heavily involved with the design process along with Kyle Langford and Andrew Lechte, it was easy to throw ideas around, and then build and test sails making the development curve steep.”
It’s the right time for all parties to get involved with Moth sails in a massive development stage. The sailors are using much shorter masts than they were 12 months ago, allowing them to go much faster, which in turn requires flatter and smaller sails. “The Doyle Moth sail is more of a broad-seam sail rather than luff curve driven, this allowed us to have a more stable sail shape and drive from the sail with the ability to over-bend the top of the sail to help when de-powering” explains Tom Johnson.
The Doyle team were also happy with how it all turned out - especially in such a short time frame. “We really couldn’t be happier with the sails - it was just a really great experience of people all wanting to work together to make something great, and to keep improving it every day,” says Chris Nicholson. “A three month turnaround from the designers sending us their excellent design, to creating and tweaking the sails on Lake Mac with Tom and Kyle, to them taking them to the World Champs was a very enjoyable process. It’s a fiddly sail that would be so easy to get wrong, but the Doyle team really seem like they got it right.”
Tom Johnson agrees, “Both myself and Kyle are stoked with how the sails have worked out - we were still using prototypes at the World’s as we did not have time to build the final product, but we were both confident that we had a product that could potentially bring us a podium.” Such was the case, with Kyle coming second, and Tom ninth overall.
“This is my first time working so closely with a sailmaker in sail development but the learning experience has been massively beneficial, I have learned a lot about what it takes to make a sail for a moth that will perform and for sure will in turn made me a better sailor”, Tom continues.
So what does the future hold for Doyle’s moth sails? “It’s definitely something we see a market for, and that we’d like to become a commercial project" say Lechte. “The idea of creating one sail with a bunch of different possible sections to optimise for the weight of the sailor seems one way we could go.” Nicholson echoes his sentiments, “we have a few ideas for our next steps - and we want to really push it in terms of design and performance”. The sailors are keen too - “the experience with Doyle has been great and I have personally put a lot of time into the sail so I would love to stay with the project and see how far we can take it!”, says Tom Johnson.
Along with improving the design, there’s also the potential for different materials too - while the prototype sails are made from a standard laminate, a Stratis Moth sail might be possible in the future. And even different classes - the designers don’t rule out the idea of Waszp or other foiling sails, now that they've nailed the moth sails - a process it seems is already well underway, judging by the success of this first iteration.