MACH SPEED

Launched in 2009, the Mach 2 falls under sailing’s Moth Class, which is broadly defined as a single-hull sailboat that uses hydrofoils, or foils, to raise the craft out of the water as it cruises. Indeed, when the Mach 2 gets going, it hovers swiftly over the water’s surface like a bug around a porch light. Its foils were designed to reduce drag and have built-in trim flaps that help lift the boat. When the Moth picks up enough speed, the hull rises out of the water, and only the foils remain cutting through the surface.

With a carbon fiber hull, the eleven-foot boat weighs around sixty pounds, remarkably light compared to other single-hull sailboats that can weigh up to nine hundred. The “wings” of the boat are made of durable, stretchy fabric for the sailor to sit on while trying to harness the wind. Of course, all this cutting-edge technology doesn’t come cheap: the asking price of a Mach 2 can be upwards of $17,000.

As a single-hull, winged sailboat, the Mach 2 requires the balance and upright stance of a windsurfing board, and demands the same level of athleticism of its pilots. When the boat lifts out of the water, the sailor has to maintain a ninety-degree angle with their body, hanging off the side of the boat to balance against the strong pull of the sails. “The whole thing is a balancing act,” says nineteen-year-old Perrin Hutcheson, the only Mach 2 owner on Nantucket. “It’s like a trapeze once you get onto the boat.”

While her Mach 2 is hard to maneuver, Perrin says the adrenaline rush is more than worth the work. “The first time you get it up it’s shocking how sensitive it is,” she says. “It’s also amazingly quiet. You get up on the foils and you’re not creating any wake, so it’s really silent.” She adds, “They go a lot faster than some motorboats, so there’s been some speeding tickets.” Indeed, the Mach 2 can cruise at up to thirty knots.
Along with hitting high speeds, sailors should be prepared to hit the water, as capsizing is common in the Moth Class. Perrin has been sailing the Mach 2 for about a year now, but still spends almost as much time in the water as in the air. “In normal sailing races, capsizing is almost unheard of,” she says, “but in Moth races, most sailors capsize at least twice, and those guys are professionals.”

While there haven’t been any deaths reported with the Mach 2, the frequent capsizing of hydrofoil boats has caused some in the sailing community to question the safety of the seemingly unstable technology. Even larger, multi-hull hydrofoil boats tend to capsize. As was the case this past May when Olympic gold medalist Andrew “Bart” Simpson was killed when he was trapped underneath a capsized boat in San Fran- cisco Bay for about ten minutes.

Perrin Hutcheson knows about the controversy surrounding hydrofoil boats, but she isn’t worried about her safety on the Mach 2, beyond a few bumps and bruises. And while she doesn’t have any plans to hit the pro sailing circuit, Perrin can be found cruising around Nantucket Sound at race-worthy speeds on her Mach 2. “It’s kind of an outlet,” she says. “There’s something so cool about being alone on a boat, just sailing, and especially when the boat’s so quiet. It’s always a great time.”

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