Foiling, reaching down the start line at 20 knots and turning up as the starting gun goes off, then landing a foiling tack and crossing the starboard boats is “simply the best feeling,” says Olympian Helena Scutt. The boat? A single-handed foiling dinghy known as the Moth famed for its technical challenge, as well the athleticism and a love of speed it demands.
Scutt, who has become an accomplished Moth sailor in just a few years of sailing the boat, was eager to share her knowledge and passion for the boat with other women sailors after returning from an exceptional experience at her first Moth World Championship event.
“Coming home from my first Moth World Championship last September, I was on such a high after experiencing such incredible racing and I couldn’t wait for more,” Scutt enthused. “The Worlds was the first time I had ever sailed in this class alongside other women. As someone who wants to see women represented at all the various upper echelons of our sport, it made me so happy to see other women crushing it in the highly regarded, high-performance Moth Worlds.”
“I know firsthand that there’s so much talent which just needs to be given the opportunity to get started in this new realm.”
Moths are difficult to sail, and they’re also expensive and somewhat fragile, so opportunities to just hop in a Moth and try one can be few and far between. Scutt knows that there are plenty of talented sailors who just need an opportunity to try one, so she was eager to facilitate that. She organized a “Women’s Intro to Moth” clinic, the first of its kind in the US.
“It was a huge success in that several women who wouldn’t have otherwise competed in the Moth Worlds got hooked and raced the Worlds just days later,” Scutt noted. “Out of 142 sailors, we had 12 women compete at Worlds, which I believe to be a record number, at least in the foiling Moth era.”
Scutt’s clinic was held this past spring at the Mission Bay Yacht Club in San Diego, a flatwater venue with an easy beach launch and the perfect place to start on the Moth. Seventeen women sailors with little to no foiling experience participated, ranging in age from 16-40 and joining from all corners of the country, plus Canada and Guatemala. With 7-8 Moths to sail, and three coach boats, each coach looked out for two to three boats, and sailors rotated in and out.
The goal was to introduce the Moth, but more broadly to the foiling side of high-performance sailing, in a fun and supportive environment. Over the weekend, Scutt covered the history of the Moth class, the evolution of foiling technology, how boats foil, all the rigging, how to launch, how to get foiling, and how to stay foiling.
The group’s enthusiasm was palpable, and she knew they were off to a good start when they went sailing a day earlier than planned.
“With all the boat work that the Moth demands, going sailing ahead of expectations is unheard of,” Scutt noted. “Friday afternoon was supposed to be just rigging and prepping for the weekend, but several sailors showed up early and eager to learn, and before I knew it, we were carrying boats into the water. It was the most meaningful, joyful weekend of sailing I’ve ever had.”
The wind was too light on Saturday for foiling, but with everyone’s enthusiasm, they all made huge strides in understanding the boat balance and nuances of building speed. That visibly paid off as they got foiling quickly once we there was enough breeze on Sunday. A personal highlight for Scutt was hopping into a Moth to demonstrate a foiling gybe – in jeans! “I’m proud to say I was dry when I got back into my coach boat,” Scutt laughed.
The sailors in the coach boats had a chance to see others’ mistakes, lessons, and improvement from the boats, and help take video to capture each other’s first foiling moments. The coaching team consisted of Richard Didham, one of the top US sailors at Moth Worlds, Jimmer Montgomery, a Moth sailor, and Head Coach at MBYC (who also lent his boat for the clinic), Matt Dorgan, a kiteboarder and Finn sailor, and Scutt.
“I can’t thank them enough for being such a positive coaching force,” she said. “The atmosphere was incredible all weekend – super keen, supportive, and encouraging. At the end of the day on Sunday, we had to herd sailors back to the beach because no one wanted to stop. I’m happy to report that so far, two participants already bought their own Moths.”
While Scutt was inspired by Luca Rizzoti (President of the International Moth Class Association and founder of Foiling Week) who kickstarted a women’s clinic that happened immediately before the Moth Worlds in Malcesine (Lake Garda), Italy, the idea for this clinic had been in the back of her mind since 2019 when she started training in the Moth, after her Olympic sailing came to an end. At that time, she was needing to reconnect with why she started sailing in the first place.
“The clinic was challenging in a way that allowed me to grow as a person (not just as an athlete), it introduced me to so many wonderful friends, and most importantly, it was fun,” Scutt said. “At the end of the clinic, I cried tears of happiness on the flight home because seeing so many women breakthrough in learning a new skill, support each other, and feel the joy of foiling was a full-circle moment for me.”
Scutt’s advice for women (or anyone) interested in Moth sailing is to have strong sailing fundamentals first, reach out to people in the class, and just start, as you’ll figure it out as you go. Enjoy the steep learning curve and ask lots of questions.
Note: This clinic wouldn’t have been possible without the financial support of the St Francis Sailing Foundation and the US Moth Class. Also, thanks to Chad Freitas and Katie Love, who brought 5 Moths from the Skiff Sailing Foundation from San Francisco to San Diego. Sømand sail wear provided quality neck gaiters and custom reusable water bottles for all participants, all embossed with a pink Moth logo, which is the Moth class’s signature sign of support for women in the fleet. US Moth class President Dan Flanigan (who also lent his boat for the clinic), and clinic participant Kara Voss hosted the clinic at their house for Saturday night pizza and debrief. Finally, thanks to Mission Bay YC for providing coach boats and facilities, and to the host families.
“I couldn’t think of a better way to try moth sailing. People always talk about how technical the boat is, and how fragile they are, so I was always quite intimidated to try the moth. An all-women’s clinic broke down all the barriers, it was an absolute blast, and now I’m hooked.” – Isabella Bertold, Vancouver, Canada
“The moth clinic was an amazing experience that made me realize that foiling is where I belong. I struggled for so long to find a discipline in sailing that I truly enjoyed and found challenging. The moth brought the joy back into sailing for me. Now, I am looking at getting a boat of my own. The clinic staff was knowledgeable and friendly for the entire clinic.” – Kit Mattikow, New York City, NY
“By the end of the weekend my network of peers expanded, my skills strengthened and my excitement for sailing was taken to a whole new level. I’ve always wanted to foil but didn’t know how or where to start. By Sunday I knew I needed to keep foiling. Now I’m linked up with the Skiff Foundation and fundraising for a Moth campaign!” – Beccy Anderson, Long Island, NY
Learn more about Moth sailing:
The StFYC Wednesday Yachting Luncheon (July 6th) is available on Youtube and is all about Moth sailing.
Join the FB group “Moth Class USA”;
Reach out to Dan, the US class president, via https://www.usmothclass.com/;
Hear more about Scutt’s Moth journey in these two podcasts: “Good Jibes with Latitude38” episode, “Helena Scutt on dreaming big in sailing and in your career” and “The Sailing Show” S6E9, “Helena Scutt; The World of Moth Sailing”.
The next clinic will be this fall on San Francisco Bay – stay tuned! Follow Helena on Instagram @helenas9 to be the first to know about the next clinic, or check on the US Moth Class website (https://www.usmothclass.com/) or FB group “Moth Class USA” to see notices there once posted.
Molly Carapiet & Helena Scutt (StFYC & Foundation members)
Credit: Beccy Anderson