If you're the kind of sailor that loves the simplicity of a singlehanded dinghy, but covets the downwind excitement of an asymmetric spinnaker, then our 2011 Boat of the Year is just for you!
Produced by RS Sailboats, of England, the RS100 is the result of two years of intensive product development. RS figured out everything up front and sweated the details before firing up the production line in Thailand. An interactive online blog allowed the company to gather input and create enough hype to generate more than 100 orders before the first boat hit the streets.
The end result is a powerful and versatile 14-foot hiking dinghy that'll keep intermediate and advanced sailors fully engaged on the racecourse (as in, having your hands full in a breeze) and fully entertained when planing around the bay for the fun of it (which the judges highly recommend, of course).
The 176-pound, epoxy-sandwich hull has the sharp looks of a high-performance dinghy, gracefully flared to short; solid hiking wings, but the real innovations of the RS100 are its details. All the controls are right where you need them, when you need them, and everything works flawlessly.
'This is the coolest looking boat this year-going away;' said Boat of the Year judge Chuck Allen, who got first licks on the boat, sailing it in eight to ten knots of breeze.'You can tell these gu ys really did their research:' Let's look at the RS100's key high lights, from bow to stern: the spinnaker halyard is continuous (with two belly points in the spinnaker) and integrated into the pole launcher; up it goes, down it goes without much friction at all. Spinnaker sheet keepers (Spectra loops on the foredeck) prevent sheets from getting under the boat.
There's a stiff two-part Selden carbon mast with the top section full of foam. The spreader bracket assembly is a slick piece of engineering that allows the mast to rotate. There's a custom screw-tension fitting at the mast partners to adjust rake. Simply rotate the dial (there are even'+' or'-' guides embossed on the fitting so you don't rake the wrong way). The inverted rigid vang ('Gnav') uses a rubber roller system that rides up and down the mast as the vang is adjusted-it's a very powerful and impressively smooth system. Padded hiking straps have up-and-down and fore-and-aft adjustments. The hardware package includes Selden's new composite blocks, and there's a high quality line package.
The agenda for this boat is to attract a wide range of sailors to the class by offering two mainsail options (109 sq.ft. and 90 sq.ft.) much like the Laser full rig and Radial system. We're told most owners are buying both, which adds another $1,000 when you're all said and done. Using the bigger sail requires sliding a foot-long carbon 'stump' into the bottom of the rig.
For its BOTY test sail, the boat came with the smaller sail, and while the heavier of the judges (at 225 pounds)would've preferred more power, the smaller sail sufficed. 'It's a great boat;' said Allen.'I was able to get into it and quickly figure out how most of the controls worked. When I found myself needing to depower a bit, I looked for the Cunningham and vang controls, while hiking, and there they were, right next to me. The vang really twisted off the top of the sail, and I could feel it immediately.'
After a lengthy turn of his own, Greg Stewart was gliding through jibes and planing in the puffs with ease.'It has great positive feel;' he reported. 'You can carry the asymmetric at pretty high angles, and easily transition onto a plane.'
Even the most impressive imports have struggled to take root in the United States, but the management of RS Sailing takes its one-design class support 'quite serious' (apply British accent).
As of October, they were establishing a U.S. dealer network and talking a big game of rapid international growth. For the sake of progressing singlehanded dinghy sailing, let's hope so.