The RS900 is hoping to win the ISAF selection trials, which will decide the women’s skiff class for the 2016 Olympics. "New Boats" from our April 2012 issue.
The increased jib size, and crew-led mainsheet makes tacking the RS900 straightforward. When the boats start racing, the primary question heading into a tack won’t be “Will we make it?” but rather “How well can we do it?” This should produce good tactical racing. If the boat heels too much before the sailors cross the boat, however, it’s an uphill climb with no footholds.
With the spinnaker flying, the RS900 sailed comfortably at wind speed. At the lower wind strengths, steering to maintain apparent wind over the waves was the winning technique. The best VMG was achieved by flat-wiring with the rig fully powered up. With helm and crew hooked into the foot loops, the ride over waves in moderate winds looked both exhilarating and fluid.
As with any asymmetric kite, the best jibes were those done with the boat at maximum speed. In our testing conditions, the buoyancy in the wings did give a little extra margin in a slow speed jibe. At 20 knots, flat-out will be only one way to jibe.
We found it hard to find fault with the RS900: our day watching the girls put the RS900 through its paces had us wishing we had brought our sailing gear. It certainly ticks all the boxes. It has enough power to keep it interesting, and enough stability to provide great racing in the full range of conditions. Additionally, it’s backed up by a world-class builder/supply chain. But as all Olympic sailors know, anything can happen at a sudden-death equipment trial.
RS 900 Vital Statistics
Construction: epoxy foam sandwich
Hull weight 121 lbs.
(not includng wings)
Mainsail 127 sq. ft.
Jib 65 sq. ft.
Kite 286 sq. ft.
Spars Selden carbon
Testers’ views upwind
“Sailing at 286 pounds felt good: we certainly didn’t feel too heavy. I often feel too big in the 29erXX in light winds, but still too small in the strong winds. The RS900 seems less weight sensitive.
“It’s really smooth upwind. I think you can do more with the trim than the XX. And the high wings mean you can trapeze really low without hitting the water.”
—29erXX sailor Hanna Klinga, 22, of Sweden
“We weren’t sure how to set up the square top. We maybe had a little too much vang, but once in the groove it felt like we could steer through a nice wide angle. The 900 responded well to fore and aft movement: forward in the light and flat water, aft in the pressure and waves. Upwind we didn’t change anything, just looked around and suddenly realized that we were going quite fast.”
—RS800 sailor Hannah Diamond, 22, of Great Britain
“It feels light, fast, and rewarding, with lots of feedback compared with the 800. I think that’s what the girls are looking for.
“We had to steer around the waves quite a lot, so it was good to lock into the foot loops. It didn’t feel like we needed to be that far back, but locking in made it much easier to helm.” —H.D.
“It is nowhere near as unstable as I expected. It’s quite easy to sail, really: the skill will be in sailing faster. Obviously, our boat handling was not up to scratch but we never felt like we were close to capsizing. I like that you don’t need to think about where you put your feet.”
—470 skipper Sophie Ainsworth, 22, of Great Britain
“It looks sleek and is great fun. It is nice that it is designed specifically for girls. It’s very different sailing to the 470; it will be a challenge to learn a new style. But not a problem, if you put in the hours on the water.” —S.A.
The selection Trials for the women’s skiff and the mixed (aka coed) multihull for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro were scheduled for March 17 to 25 in Santander, Spain. The boats that have been submitted for consideration include the following skiffs: 29erXX, ARUP Skiff, AURA, Hartley Rebel, Mackay FX, and the RS900. The multihulls that will vie for the coed multihull Olympic berth are: Hobie 16, Hobie Tiger, Nacra 17, Nacra F16, Spitfire S, Tornado, and Viper.