Minorca Sailing, based on the Spanish island of Menorca, has built a formidable reputation over its 30-year history for having some of the best sailing toys about… and even in today’s tough times. The last time I had visited the centre was five years earlier, when I made it my business to ensure I sailed every boat in their vast range… well not quite; I drew the line at the Pico and Oppies!
Still, the RS800, 29erXX, 49er and Musto Skiff all got a spin. I discovered that I preferred the Musto to the RS700, due to its more responsive nature and simpler spinnaker system. I also learned that although I was the perfect size for helming an RS200, if I had a taller crew the 400 was definitely the better option. To have the chance to sail so many dinghies over the course of a week was both a treat and a great learning experience.
A lot of boats have been launched in the past five years, but few of them have seriously taken off… I was pretty certain I could rely on Minorca Sailing to feature them among their fleet, and sure enough I wasn’t disappointed. Probably the biggest success over the last few years has been the singlehanded RS100, Here was my chance to put it through its paces…
It was light – around eight knots – and so the large rig was just fine. The 100 does come with three rig options, right down to one for lighterweights like me, and two-part carbon fibre mast also has a removable bottom section for the smaller sails, so this isn’t just an after thought!
As I launched I could see one of the design’s really appealing traits. This boat is comfortable! If anyone remembers something called the Laser EPS, then my first thought was of sailing that… although the 100 is rather more thought out, the wings moulded more as part of the hull and the flared sides don’t thump the water like the EPS wings were prone to doing.
So much rope
The next thing that struck me was how much rope there is in this boat… there’s even a pulley system for lowering and raising the centreboard! I admit that had me a little flummoxed at first, but the rest of the controls fell easily to hand, being, as they were, led out to the wings, and were very obvious and simple to operate.
Upwind the boat felt responsive and light, easy to roll when the breeze was down, with a clear path across in the tack. The boom is nice and high, in fact jumping out of the 400 into this I felt very much at home, even if I was minus a crew.
With its epoxy sandwich hull, carbon fibre spars, epoxy foils and Mylar sails, the whole boat felt very easily-driven, its fine bow slicing through the waves, while the 100’s wide aft section offered comfort and stability.
On the bear away, again the boat responded well, although I realised I hadn’t even looked at the spinnaker system… where was the halyard? My first hoist wasn’t the slickest of manoeuvres, but it was easy enough – thank goodness RS didn’t put one of those awful pump-systems into this boat (sorry but I really think it ruins the 700 and adds so much friction that as a bit of a weakling girl I’d prefer to do without and put up with the extra juggling of the helm and halyard). The sheeting angle for the asymmetric spinnaker felt just right and heating the boat up and then bearing away soon got us planning briefly as a gust hit. Sadly the wind soon dropped again and I switched to low mode – something that’s key in all these boats… it’s all too tempting to head up.
The drop too was easy enough… although again not too slick – it was my first outing! Without too much drama I was heading upwind again thinking that I actually liked this boat. I could feel that I was probably too light for it and would definitely need a smaller rig when the breeze got up, but the hull felt responsive even to my body weight.
The Paul Handley-designed RS100 is a lovely boat, with a hint of real style about it. So much nicer than the Vareo, which I found a real bore upwind. Well thought out and comfortable, it’s not surprising that it’s proved a hit as it appeals to a wide range of sailors. There’s plenty to challenge the top end, and yet it’s not unforgiving. During the week the 100 proved very popular, offering Laser sailors a new challenge without the huge jump up to the Musto Skiff.
Although we didn’t try out the smaller rig sizes, the hull felt responsive enough for lighter weight sailors, as well as accommodating the larger sailors that evidently enjoyed racing the boat all week. A lovely boat to sail that probably should come with a health warning if you haven't really got the budget for a new boat. If you’re a slightly bored singlehanded sailor who doesn’t want to go the whole hog and trapeze as well, or your crew keeps letting you down, the RS100 is just the boat to add a bit of fun to your sailing… with the added bonus of a strong and competitive fleet as well.
RS has a range of successful designs, including the two-man RS200.
Gael Pawson is the founder of Creating Waves and was the editor of Yachts & Yachting Magazine for over 10 years. A keen racer, she has sailed all her life, and started writing about the subject whilst studying journalism at university. Dinghies and small keelboats are her first loves, but she has cruised and raced a huge variety of boats in locations across the world.