by John Curnow
The thought of sailing a quick dinghy is certainly appealing and enthralling. For some, the idea of wings and traps, combined with a twitchiness and nervousness at low speed resembling that of a cornered mouse, ends up being more than enough to quickly extinguish such exuberant ideas as just a rush of blood to the head.
The first buyers of the Melbourne based RS200s could not be happier. - RS200
Enter the two-person RS200, bigger sister to the acclaimed single-hander, the recently ISAF endorsed RS100. Imported into Australia by Performance Sailcraft Australia, here is a light, open-cockpitted, bowsprit enhanced, 8.29m2 asymmetric ‘chute flying, non-trapeze fun machine. It may not be new, in fact they’ve been around since 1995, but these Phil Morrison penned 4m dinghies now number well past 1500, with a huge following in the UK and Europe.
The RS200s get away for their race off Red Bluff on Melbourne's Port Phillip. - RS200
Here’s the thing, however. If you do want to get out on the water in an RS200, then you won’t have to pay too much, either. At $14,000 it is cheaper than a Puffin Pacer, a good deal less than a new Tasar and a good deal less than that which a 29er or 49er will require as an investment. Most importantly, that price is an ‘out on the water, actually racing with sails, cordage and all’ type figure, with a dolly and cover also included. As a club buying more than one, you can expect to see that reduced a little, as well.
In essence, it is the perfect step for the intermediate sailor/crew or the Mum/Dad/Kids scenario. It does not take too long to rig up, has low loads on the gear, is effectively completely self-draining and can be sailed well with 100 to 165kg on board its dry weight of 114kg. The RS200 is not Etchells level in terms of tuning, either. There is no traveller, just the basics like vang, outhaul, Cunningham and single line hoist/drop for the spin halyard and bowsprit.
Rounding the top mark with the RS200s. - RS200
You can add a TackTick if you choose and there is a guide on the class site for the Selden alloy rig and spreader tensions/positions/rake to make it truly organised. The Mylar, 9.13m2 mainsail has a traditional roach and full battens. Swing mounted centreboard and rudder also add to the ease of use factor and draw just 1.13m when down.
Tom Pearce of Sailing Raceboats, one of Performance Sailcraft Australia's Victorian dealers, brought five of these vessels to the Black Rock not that long ago and promptly sold four of them to other club members. The last one he keeps as a permanent demonstrator and there are eight more on the way right now.
Gary and Jill enjoy hiking without the need to get on a trapeze. - RS200
‘Our plan is to get a strong following at the one club and then move on from here. To date, we have not approached other clubs and just focussed on getting the group going here’, said Tom. ‘A lot of people have tried and liked the boat, from World Champions in Musto Skiffs and OK Dinghies to club sailors and the reactions have all been very positive.’
‘We’re fully flexible about where it will all go. We will see if people are interested at clubs and then we’ll leave the demonstrator RS200 with them for a week. When we get down to three left, we’ll order more to fill up another container, as there is a three-month lead time from UK for delivery. We are really looking forward to seeing where the RS200 will take us. I think sailing schools will be very much interested, as it sits in really well above the Pacer for advancing sailor’s skills’, Tom commented.
Gary McLennan and his wife Jill, are one of the buyers from that early group. Their son, James, is a very distinguished 29er skipper who sails with Thomas Trotman, the grandson of AFL legend, the truly inspirational Tommy Hafey.
Gary and Jill McLennan love having a boat with an asymmetric spinnaker - RS200
Gary said of his RS200, ‘It was important for us to have an Assy to get that sensation of downhill speed. It probably does 70% of what a 29er will do uphill, but off the breeze it goes pretty well and you can take it quite high. It is detuned somewhat and not as hairy as a skiff, but well up on a Mirror or 125 and is undeniably the best family craft of its size. Two 50kg kids would have a real blast in it and the feel it provides is sensational.’
‘Honestly, the gybe is as easy as a tack and the whole boat comes out of the box and everything works. There are all the same adjustments as 29er with a detuned hull. You feel comfortable and it’s safe and up out of the water. I reckon you could sail it at 80 years of age. If you do capsize, then it is certainly a bit easier with the open transom etc. and being self-draining is a lot better than bailing.’
‘You know, the RS200 is also a good boat if you have novice crew on board, for you can pretty much do it all on your own except for the kite hoist and that can be done by them easily, as it is just the one line, up and down’, Gary finished with.
Robyn Vize and Lara Blasse with their much loved RS200. - RS200
Gary is part of a strong clan of parents getting into their sailing, whilst their children or other family members are out enjoying their own nautical pursuits. Robyn Vize is the step mum of Women’s 470 sailor, Jacqui Gurr, and Lara Blasse is the wife of World OK Dinghy Association President, Andre. These two ladies have taken to the RS200 with a real passion, and it shows, for they have got on to the winner’s dais early on.
Robyn commented about their keenness, ‘It’s just that it’s all done and is so nice, tidy and clean. You simply go sailing, with little maintenance to worry about. Coming off Fireballs and Tasars, I really like it being totally modern – the proverbial plastic fantastic – all so easy and you simply wash it off, put it away and it’s all there, set for you the next week.’
The hull is GRP over Coremat, which is a non-woven polyester mat that lowers inherent weight by not allowing excessive resin take up, increases strength and provides for a clean finish. These are good characteristics to have in a vessel you just want to use and not spend hours working on in order to go for a family sail or an afternoon race.
Simple operation of the asymmetric spinnaker allows for running deep into the mark. - RS200
Lara added, ‘I really like the fact that it is a complete kit and you’re not mucking around with too many extraneous elements.’ Robyn commented too, saying, ‘If you’re an intermediate club sailor, you don’t have to learn how to build one, just to go out and sail one. You get it out of the wrapper and it all works, so for club sailing it is simply perfect and they’re aren’t too many adjustments on board.’
‘We also like how you have to sail it to different conditions with moving your weight around and utilise your skills, as opposed to being involved in cheque book racing.’
Another of the parents of clan is Tim Grogan, who is also the President of the Optimist Association, with his son James being one of the competitors there. ‘He bought one within about 30 seconds’, explained Tom.
Tim explained a bit further, ‘My wife was interested in a Sabre, but I knew that sailing together might be a better option. We did not want to have a trapeze to worry about, but certainly a spinnaker to add excitement. So accordingly for us a Tasar did not suit and it is also more expensive. The Pacer is hardly vibed up enough and the 420 and 29er require a person on trapeze. There is a big gap in the market and the RS200 really works for us, so now we sail, Mr and Mrs Smith, which we have taken from the movie of the same name about the two assassins, as a pun on not going sailing with your partner.’
Close, fun racing for the intermediate sailor is assured with the RS200. - RS200
Chris Caldecoat, the General Manager of Performance Sailcraft Australia sums up 'This is an absolutely fantastic two person boat that fills a void in our market, The RS 200 in Europe and UK has the largest group of fun regatta loving people I have experienced, with another 10 boats just arriving for Tom we are glad the traction has finally started in Oz.'
Robyn and Lara get their RS200 steaming along on the downwind leg. - RS200
So when it all gets too much for you and you want to go sailing, think of the RS200.
See PSA Australia or if you’re in Victoria, ww.SailingRaceBoats.com.au!Sailing_Race_Boats!new for more information.