Phil Oligario restored his first racing moth in his garage nearly a decade ago. Fast forward to now and Phil and his company, Atomik UK, build the Chris Allen-designed Voodoo Moth, which rides high on low-drag Macita foils. We asked Phil how he got obsessed with moths, how he turned his hobby into a vocation and what’s coming next…
After a 20-year career in IT working for blue chip companies, Phil Oligario decided to turn his hobby into a business, founding marine tech and moth-building company Atomik UK. “I bought and restored my first moth nine years ago,” he says. “My carbon skills were zero, so it was a steep learning curve,” he adds. “Fortunately, I ran into Graham Eels, the legendary boat builder behind the Olympic Tornado Class, and he helped me build my moth-building knowledge almost from scratch.”
A Ninja in the garage
Phil built his first moth – Ninja – in his garage in 2010. “I got the mould for the Ninja from Mike Cooke at Aardvark Technologies and I also got lots of support from Adam May, who’s on the Artemis Racing Team for the America’s cup,” says Phil. “The Ninja turned out really solid and I knew then that building moths was what I wanted to do, so I took the plunge, went full time and set up Atomik UK.”
Shortly after completing the Ninja, Phil met Kevin Ellway, designer of the Exocet Moth. “Kevin very kindly gave me plans for a larger version of the Ninja and he and I worked on some custom elements to make the design work even better,” says Phil. “This was my first foray into building a moth from plug to hull complete with custom foils and she wound up in the Gold Fleet at the Hayling World Championships.”
Breakthrough boat: Voodoo Moth
With the two builds under his belt, Phil started working with moth designer Chris Allen. “Chris designed our latest boat, which is called the Voodoo Moth,” says Phil. “So far, we’ve built six and I’m absolutely loving it,” he adds. “With every moth, we iron out engineering challenges and make improvements to the control systems, the deck layout, the wing bars and more,” he says.
“As the business has grown, we’ve moved out of the garage into our own facility,”
Currently, Voodoo Moths are being built by Chris at his premises and by Phil at Atomik’s new facility. “As the business has grown, we’ve moved out of the garage into our own facility,” says Phil.
As well as building Voodoo Moths, Atomik has exclusive rights to build and supply Macita Lift Foils in the UK. These foils were created by Luka Damic and Dave Lister in Australia.
“The Macita Foil gives excellent lift out, with a modified section that significantly reduces drag,” says Phil. “That allows the foil to perform extremely well across the typical wind range seen at moth events.”
Focus on innovation
Phil’s work developing and building moths and Macita foils makes Atomik UK slightly different to traditional boat builders. “We see ourselves as a small technology company,” says Phil. “We are constantly on the lookout for new designs and materials that are lighter, stronger and faster – and we’re always open to new ideas.”
One example of this culture of innovation is Atomik’s use of high-density foam sandwich construction with ultra-high-modulus carbon components. “To quote Kevin Ellway, I think of moth-building like model engineering on a human scale,” says Phil. “By using high-density foam, ultra-high-modulus carbon and a mix of carbon-reinforced cloths, we can make moths and foils that withstand extreme loads with minimal risk of breakages,” he adds.
After experiencing catastrophic failures with a competing epoxy brands, Phil uses PRO-SET® epoxy from West System International® to build his Voodoo Moths and Macita foils.
“It’s been absolutely bullet proof, with no breakages at all so far.”
“I’m great friends with Simon Maguire, who’s a legend in the moth world, and I try to emulate a lot of what he does in terms building super-fast moths with no weak points whatsoever,” says Phil. “When I heard that his World Championship-winning Exocet was built with PRO-SET epoxy, I wanted to try it as well and I haven’t looked back. It’s been absolutely bullet proof, with no breakages at all so far.”
While Phil currently uses manual “wet layup” processes for epoxy lamination, he’s currently looking into infusion techniques and pre-preg. “We’re constantly innovating to minimise the risk of breakages and epoxy techniques such as infusion may help us to make our moths even stronger and more load resistant in the future.”
“Despite being the first foil out of the mould, it also proved to be super quick!”
In the last few months, Atomik manufactured a new Macita foil for Bora Gulari to use at the Moth World’s in Lake Garda this year. Unfortunately Bora was unable to attend, however, we had a last minute call to build a rudder lift foil for Luka Damic (co designer of the Macita) . That was our biggest challenge to date, a brand new rudder design file from Luka, one brand new CNC machine that we had no idea how to configure and seven days in which to produce a pattern, mould and part. We did it with a day to spare and I was able to fly out and deliver the foil to Luka. He immediately scored two 3rd places in qualifying and ended up 21st overall in Gold Fleet with a best place of 7th. “We could not have been happier with the result. The foil was again bullet proof (Luka is one of the heaviest sailors in the fleet at 95kilos) with no structural issues despite being the first foil out of the mould. It also proved to be super quick!”
As Phil and Atomik continue to gain traction, the company is generating more and more interest among experienced competing moth sailors. “We’re now at the point where we’re working with talented designers and we’re building moths and Macita foils for top sailors,” says Phil. “Our ongoing investment in R&D means we’ll never stand still: we’ll always be looking to make faster, stronger moths. Watch this space!”
Find out more about Atomik at www.atomikuk.com
Wondering if WEST SYSTEM epoxy products might be the right fit for your boat build? Explore the full range on the West System International website.
Update 11th Aug 2017
‘Blink and you miss it!’….
Wow the Moth world really does move quickly and since this article was published it has moved again.
Atomik UK are now exclusively working on a new design – take off in 2018 we understand.
The Voodoo Moth is now being built exclusively by Chris Allen at Voodoo Boats
Good luck to both builders!