The RM970 comes from a French built range of comfortable and well finished performance cruisers, which is unusual among today's yachts. The hull construction is of plywood and epoxy – only the curved coachroof is of fibreglass. The company has built more than 500 yachts over the past 27 years using this method. It results in a very stiff structure with an excellent strength to weight ratio and also provides better thermal insulation than a fibreglass structure, which in turn reduces condensation.

There was a time at which plywood yachts looked old fashioned, thanks to the inevitable chines where the panels meet. However, the latest performance designs have marked chines, running well forward, so this construction very much fits with the shape of contemporary yachts. A galvanised internal frame takes the loads of the keel, mast compression and rig tension. Similarly, a crash bulkhead aft of the bow will help give confidence in the event of hitting a heavy floating object.

RM970 review: sailing downwind

The RM970

Key attributes

The RM970 is aimed squarely at those who enjoy sailing fast on an efficient state-of-the-art yacht – one that will effortlessly eat up the miles without putting a strain on her crew. At the same time, this design – from the board of acclaimed French naval architect Marc Lombard – proves that such sailing doesn’t have to be uncomfortable.

Below decks and accommodation

This boat holds many surprises, one of which is the sense of space and light in the accommodation, which is unexpected on a design that’s so oriented towards providing such a refined sailing experience. The chined hull shape, along with a generous beam of 3.7m means the accommodation has not been compromised for the sake of performance. Two hull windows, large curved coachroof windows, plus a massive overhead panel in the forward part of the coachroof – which also provides an excellent view forward – all combine to flood the saloon with natural light. This is enhanced by plenty of white surfaces, which are offset by smaller areas of light-coloured natural wood, enhancing the overall effect.

The L-shape galley is particularly impressive, with excellent stowage and worktop space - it would not look out of place on a significantly larger boat. In keeping with this boat’s concept as a design capable of serious sailing, the arrangement is one that's intended to work well both on passage and in harbour.

The saloon is open plan to the forepeak, which offers a generously sized double berth, with an optional canvas screen for privacy. The aft double cabin is of a generous size, with ample space for stowage, and does not feel claustrophobic. There's also a proper navigation station, with a forward-facing seat on the starboard side. Aft of this is the heads/shower compartment, which in turn leads to a stowage/technical area with access to all the main systems, including the pilot and other electronics.

RM970 review: below decks

The RM970 holds plenty of surprises, below decks it feels light and spacious.

RM970 review accommodation

The saloon is open plan to the forepeak.

On deck and performance

On stepping aboard you're immediately struck by the space in the cockpit for a boat of this length. The helm position is top notch, with a comfortable perch on the side deck from which you can easily reach the mainsail controls when sailing short handed. The rest of the sail controls are next to the companionway, where one person can easily manage everything. Primary winches are positioned on a neatly executed pedestal, making them exactly the right height for easy winching and deck gear is of a high quality, with a layout that largely minimises friction.

The rig is a standard modern 9/10ths fractional with non-overlapping headsails. Options include a furling staysail and asymmetric spinnaker that sets from a bowsprit that also incorporates a bow roller for the anchor. On reaching courses easy double-digit speeds can be expected in the right conditions and even upwind the boat can be expected to significantly outperform larger more conventional yachts.

Standard specification includes bilge keels, tiller steering and a single rudder. The latter is specified to be sufficiently strong to allow the boat to dry out. Options include a torpedo bulb fin keel with twin rudders. Any of these options can be specified with twin wheels in place of the tiller steering. The larger boats in the range are offered with lifting keels, but the cost of engineering a properly ballasted lifting keel on a smaller boat makes it uneconomical compared to the overall price.

RM970 review cockpit

The cockpit on the RM970 is spacious for a yacht of this size.

What it does well and compromises

This is undoubtedly one of the few boats that will please both those for whom easily tamed performance is an essential element in a boat and those who value civilised, bright and spacious accommodation. It will be a lot of fun to sail, while the standard of finish and level of attention to detail are particularly striking and will make for very comfortable cruising.

The most obvious compromise on this boat is that this is clearly not built down to a price and it’s certainly possible to buy a larger boat for the same money. But that would not have the easy handling, stunning performance and high level of finish that are such an attraction of the RM970. A measure of its initial success is that the boat was launched in September 2016 and 20 boats had already sold by the time of the Düsseldorf boat show in January 2017.

There are few direct comparisons to this model. Two other French designs, the Pogo 30 and Jeanneau’s Sun Fast 3200 offer similar – or even better – performance, but at the expense of the cruising comforts and quality of the interior accommodation. The J/97E (see J/112E review: quick comfortable cruising yacht) is also worthy of consideration – it’s a more conventional concept, but offers a similar level of performance and comfort.

For more information visit RM Yachts or Parkstone Bay Yachts.

RM970 specifications

LOA (with bowsprit): 10.57m
Hull length: 9.65m
Waterline length: 8.95m
Beam: 3.70m
Draught: twin keels: 1.65m; single keel: 2.10m
Displacement: twin keels: 4,100kg; single keel: 3,900kg
Air draught: 16.06m
Fuel capacity: 65 litres
Water capacity: 2x70 litres
Holding tank capacity: 35 litres
Sail area: Mainsail: 33.3sq m; Genoa 27.8sq m; Staysail 15.7sq m; Asymmetric spinnaker 95sq m

Written by: Rupert Holmes
Rupert Holmes has more than 70,000 miles of offshore cruising and racing experience, in waters ranging from the North Sea to the Southern Ocean and Cape Horn. He writes about all aspects of boat ownership and marine travel, including destinations, seamanship and maintenance, as well as undertaking regular new boat and gear tests. He currently sails around 5,000 miles per year and in the past couple of seasons has cruised from the UK to the Azores, as well as winning his class in the 2014 two-handed Round Britain and Ireland Race. He also owns two yachts, one based in the Mediterranean and the other in the UK.