What A Ride: The Musto Performance Skiff

A solo dinghy for adrenaline junkies that takes some getting used to, but delivers on its performance promise once you do. From our June 2006 issue.

Walter Cooper

The Musto Performance Skiff could possibly be the coolest dinghy we've tested over the past few years. It's so aesthetically pleasing that just seeing it on land stops you in your tracks, and it's a relatively simple boat to sail, enabling the helmsman to concentrate on its all-out speed, which requires some finesse to get. I first saw the Musto Skiff at the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis last fall. There was quite a crowd of interested sailors in the parking lot outside Fawcett's Boat Supplies, eyeing the MPS, which was fully rigged on its trailer. The boat is 15 feet long and has a beam of 4'5", which becomes 7'8" when its hiking racks are extended. When you first look into the cockpit and see all the colored-coded rope, it looks a bit overwhelming, but once you look it over and hear more about the boat, it all makes sense. Control lines are double-ended and led to the racks for quick adjustment on the fly. I remember asking myself whether I could sail this thing. I got the chance to find out a few days later during the boat test phase of SW's 2006 Boat of the Year contest. The Musto Skiff was originally conceived by Joachim Harpprecht, a German designer, in 1999. It went to Victor Boats for prototyping, and to Ovington Boats for finishing and production. All these groups have had success in the past, assuring top-of-the-line quality. Musto came on board as a backer, and that, coupled with strict class rules, helps protect the one-design aspect, which will help promote the growth of the class worldwide. In 2000 the boat was brought to the International Sailing Federation for consideration as an Olympic Class, and it was the fastest monohull at ISAF's singlehanded dinghy selection trials. A great feature of the MPS is its quick rig and de-rig time. In 30 minutes, or less with practice, the boat is ready to sail. Victor Boat's Ron Radko, who imports the skiffs into North America, walked me through the set up, and it was as easy as rigging my Laser. One important tip was about hoisting the main; you have to make sure all the battens are on the same tack (bent the same way), or you'll have one hell of a time pulling it up. A supply of dry lubricant would be necessary for this boat, especially in and around the spinnaker tube. I'd also encourage Sailkoting the spinnaker because it will be wet most of the time. The mainsail, which is made by Hyde Sails, is similar to a Mylar windsurfing sail. Tears can be fixed with Mylar or Dacron tape, or in a pinch, even duct tape. The batten ends, especially the inboard ends, will see some wear after a few events, but that's typical and they can be easily repaired. The main also has a storage pocket near the tack for stashing extra lines and halyards. The vang bar on the MPS is mounted above the boom, and it allows for plenty of de-powering when necessary, and plenty of power for acceleration, such as when starting. Sailing the boat is, in a word, incredible. I've only sailed a few skiffs in my time, and the Musto Skiff is one of the most balanced I've ever sailed. A newcomer will need a quick lesson to understand the basics, and it does take a while to find your bearings because you'll initially lbe sailing with your "head in the boat," when you'll need to be watching forward for pitch and balance issues. One false move and you're in the drink. But, after practice, the sail controls become second nature. Upwind sailing is fun and I was able to find a nice groove. When I felt underpowered, all I had to do was bear off just a click and the boat accelerated. The key is to always have the mainsheet in your hand-it's tied to the trap handle so it's close. It's also all too easy to dip the weather rack if you're not careful, and flipping to weather is not what you want to do, especially with the kite up. Tacking the boat takes practice because the boom is lower than you think, and you're coming off the wire and the rack, making a bee line to the opposite wire and rack. After dialing into the basics-like tacking and sailing balanced-you'll graduate to things like reaching in from the trapeze to adjust luff tension, but you'll need to take it one step at a time. Downwind is sensational sailing. The kite is large for a boat this size and weight. On my first set, I pretended I'd just rounded a weather mark to get the sequence down properly. It goes something like this. First, head down a bit, bringing weight in towards the spinnaker halyard. Then, cleat the main, grab the spinnaker halyard and hump that baby to the top (it's on a purchase system, so it doesn't take long), let the kite luff for a second until you snag the spinnaker sheet, then pull in slowly, and off you go. Weight needs to be well aft on the rack so you can better see if the spinnaker needs any trim and to keep the bow up. I learned to set the main in order to concentrate on driving and spinnaker trim. The boat sails into the high teens with ease and just rips right over and through waves-they're no match for this dinghy-unless you forget to put your foot in the footstrap. Jibing is tricky; I left the main set, bore off while easing the kite, came in, unclipped, and made haste for the opposite side. In the jibe, you need to make sure the battens tack, locate the new sheet, sheet in, and go. With a little practice, sailing the MPS will be non-stop fun. In photographs from Musto Skiff events, you'll see guys wearing protective gear like kneepads and shin protectors. I highly recommend doing the same, as you're guaranteed to get some shin bruises. I think a full-length, thin wetsuit would be perfect for sailing the MPS, along with some thin kneepads. A lifejacket is a must when sailing this boat, or any other dinghy for that matter, and don't forget some water, you'll need it. LOA 14'11" Beam 4'4" (7'9" w/racks) Weight 176 lbs. SA (u/d) 123 sq. ft./289 sq. ft. Design Dr. Joachim Happrecht Price $11,500 www.mustoskiff.com