Jordan Spencer concludes his series of boat tests on single-handed skiffs.
The RS100 was the last of a series of new-style, single-handed skiffs left for me and Australian Sailing + Yachting to test.
Heading to the beach I was a little nervous as to what I might find. You see, I had enjoyed immensely testing all these boats and I was worried the final one might be a let down.
I have watched the development of the RS100 on the RS website and I have kept track with any sailing developments, as skippers became used to the boat. And certainly, there were some things that worried me in the lead up to this test.
The RS clan share a similar look, low freeboard, little rocker, similar bow profile – there is a lot of sameness going on. Also, after testing the D1, I figured this would be a cheaper, lower quality version. Add to that, some video of how hard skippers were working the boat uphill to get it to perform and I thought… it’s going to be tough for me to like this boat.
The test was at Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron in a boat provided by an RS100 owner, Roddy Cameron. Good start, great chance to get some genuine feedback. Roddy loved his boat and was keen for as many people as possible to join him in sailing one.
The 100 looked fantastic! It’s a very appealing piece of kit. Much better than it seems in the photos I had seen. The fine bow, the wings and the carbon deck all give it a thoroughly modern look. There are some pretty cool ideas, like the rotating spreader base, plus it looks well laid out, so we are definitely off to a good start.
The 100 has been designed as a performance racing boat. It was designed by Paul Handley, with a lot of development in-house by the RS team after significant input from sailors posting what they wanted to see on an RS forum. The design goals, were:
- Responsive racing boat for intermediate to experienced sailors.
- Asymmetric spinnaker for fast downwind excitement.
- Rewarding upwind speed.
- Comfortable hiking design.
- Sailors of 70-95kg should be competitive at the top level.
- Priced between a Laser and an RS700/MPS.
- Great looking.
The team has produced a very easily-driven, low-drag hull shape, with relatively flat rocker. It has a chine that runs almost the full length of the hull, much like a 49er. Its wings are part of the hull moulding, so not adjustable, and it has a big, open, self-draining cockpit.
There is a centreboard and a swing rudder, because that’s what the people wanted. And it has a very cool deck that covers all the control lines, the spinnaker chute and the mast step. Incorporated into the deck is a very elegant fitting to control mast rake. All you have to do is spin a big knob till you dial up the right number, all of which is incorporated into the fitting.
The RS 100 is 4.3m long, 1.83m wide and weighs 80kg ready to sail. The spars are all carbon, from Selden. The mast is two-piece, plus it incorporates a little extension plug for the base if you use the larger sail.
The hull and foils are epoxy foam sandwich, so should be extremely durable. You have a choice of two main sails from the Hyde loft, a 10.2sqm or an 8.4sqm. The spinnaker is 12.5sqm.
Standing on the beach looking at the rigged boat, working from bow to stern, you have what is now a fairly standard self-launching spinnaker pole, a nicely designed chute for the spinnaker.
No forestay! A couple of lines that suck the kite sheets onto the deck once the spinnaker is doused. That clever deck fitting for the mast. The sidestays. A unique Gnav vang system (upside-down, reverse thrust vang system) which uses a set of rollers. Outhaul on the boom. Dual vang and cunningham controls, led to each side, at the rear of the deck. A mainsheet pedestal, straddling the centreboard and the spinnaker halyard system. The spinnaker halyard incorporates a mini spinlock rather than a cleat; and finally a mainsheet bridle at the transom. There is no traveller.
Some clever ideas to make the rig work include the mast being supported by a pair of side stays with spreaders mounted on a rotating spreader base. The mast rotates, so the spreaders have to as well. This prevents the mast inverting when the spinnaker is set.
Also, the Gnav is not fixed to the mast in any way, so swapping rigs doesn’t require re-rigging the whole vang.
I also want to point out the dolly. These are not provided by RS, rather the Australian distributor has them made up and they are very good. The balance point is spot on, so they are easy to manoeuvre around the boat park.
A quick note on the wings. Given they are part of the hull mould, there is no adjustment for different crew weights. The manufacturer feels that they will sell enough boats so that they can have two fleets at championships, one for the 10.2m sail and one for the 8.4m sail, much like a standard Laser and a Radial Laser.
Our test sail was conducted in around 8-10kn and with me being only a slight 93kg, we elected to put the big rig up. The sails are a rounded square-head shape. There are two full-length battens up top and a couple of half-length at the bottom. The sail is built in a radial pattern with a dacron luff and a mylar leech. It is quite a deep sail, with a lot of round down low.
Launching the boat was easy. She is pretty compliant sitting in the water despite the narrow waterline. The open transom makes it easy to get on board. The centreboard is a breeze, one quick tug and it’s down. The rudder is the same and there is no slack.
Sheet on and your feet automatically slide under the hiking straps, they are perfectly positioned. As is the mainsheet cleat. The alignment for the sheet is just out of the cleat when you are playing it and it’s just a quick flick down to be in the cleat.
It’s the same with the wings, they have got the width right so you can easily drop-leg hike, or you can hike flat and there are no pressure points. This is a really, really well thought-out and executed boat. I am impressed.
You can tell the team at RS have gone out and sailed and sailed this boat, then made those tiny 1% changes to get it spot on.
The first thing I do once underway, is play with the vang and cunningham to see how much I can affect sail shape. The vang bends the bottom of the mast quite a bit, so you can pull that round right out of the sail.
Once the sail is set up, I can start leaning into the puffs. The 100 is powerful and will heel quickly, but it also accelerates quickly, so it seems happy for you to dump a little sheet and then squeeze on as you pull the boat flat.
I loved steering the boat, the rudder has great feel. You only need the smallest movement on the tiller for the boat to turn. It also tacks really well. The 100 keeps its speed, so you just pop a little main, roll the boat and step through.
There is nothing to step over or trip on, there is plenty of wing to plonk down on and the hiking straps are easy to hook so you can power the boat down.
I took a nice long upwind beat and tried to find the rhythm of sailing the boat. Initially I was a little far back and it did hobby horse a bit, so I moved forward which kept the bow down. I found the tiller/extension a few inches short for my liking, but it was a good diameter.
The boat moved along nicely, but I didn’t find anyone to line up against uphill. My gut feel is that she will be happy holding in the high groove, and the gun skippers will be the ones who develop the ability to drop her down a couple of degrees, accelerate quickly and then pull her back into the high groove again. I do think the 100 will take plenty of skill to sail well in chop of any sort of size, but the accuracy of the rudder will help here.
Moving onto a single sail reach, the 100 accelerates noticeably. She pops straight onto the plane and feels quite lively. It’s probably my favourite point of sail for this boat. I felt a bit like a sailboarder, just zooming up and back on a fast reach.
Launching the kite is no problem. When I first bore away, I thought, ‘don’t let too much main off’ so I can support the mast with the kite up. Then I remembered the sidestays, no need to worry!
You do really want to steer this thing with your body weight and sail trim. Any leeward heel when you bear away, or too little ease on the main will see the boat heel further, catch a wing, lift the stern and un-weight the rudder and if there is a bit of breeze about, you will swim.
Once the kite is up, you reach over and grab the kite sheet and straight away notice another smart thing the design team has done. The angle from the pully is in the same plane as the mainsheet, so if you need to adjust the mainsheet, you don’t need to find another hand, its right there under your spinnaker sheet.
The RS100 comes alive downhill. It’s very quick for a singlehander. Don’t expect to do any close reaching with the kite up, its too powerful.
I set up behind a Cherub on a reach during a race. The crew was struggling to get on the wire, so they weren’t greatly powered up and the RS 100 sailed straight through to leeward.
Even when the wind lightened out and I tried running very square, the 100 would pick up every little wave.
The other thing that works really well is gybing. The lack of forestay means the spinnaker flips through smoothly. You don’t experience the bow being blown around as you do on other boats when the spinnaker pushes past the forestay.
There were some things I didn’t like. RS make the best spinnaker launch/retrieval system I have ever used with their pump system on the 700. It makes launching super easy with one hand, and it also incorporates a control to adjust the tension on the retrieval line. The 100 doesn’t have it - it wasn’t voted for by the people on their forum. They were wrong!
There was also too much tension on the retriever, (the halyard/retriever was too short) which pulled the spinnaker out of shape. I also managed to hook my feet under the spinnaker halyard and uncleat it whilst running, as it is located right next to the hiking straps, Just better awareness from the skipper required on that one I think.
All in all, this is a wonderful boat, far better than I thought it would be. If you are seeking a performance single-hander that is bags of fun, has plenty of downhill speed, is incredibly well thought out and easy to use, the RS100 could very well be what you need.