RS Zest

A trainer from the UK that is as sat­is­fy­ing for vet­er­ans to sail as it is for new­bies

SAIL - - New Boats - By Adam Cort

When it comes to sail­ing, the first boat a new­bie sets foot on can make all the dif­fer­ence in the world; which is why our edi­tors were es­pe­cially im­pressed with the new Zest train­ing dinghy from RS Sail­ing when they se­lected it as one of their win­ners in SAIL’s 2018 Best Boat con­test. Its sprightly yet pre­dictable per­for­mance, er­gonomic de­sign and eas­ily han­dled rig all com­bine to make the boat user­friendly, safe and fun to sail.

A bright yel­low sculpted thwart seat pro­vides in­board seat­ing for small crew not yet com­fort­able with hik­ing and dou­bles as a rowing seat when the op­tional oar­locks and oars are in use. In­ter­me­di­ate side-seats and com­fort­able sid­edecks in the main cock­pit also al­low less ex­pe­ri­enced sailors to stay com­fort­able while driv­ing the boat. The boom is nice and high to help pre­vent head-on-al­loy en­coun­ters, and the boat can be sloop-rigged with a jib to keep a crew of two (or even three) en­ter­tained, or una-rigged with just a main­sail for solo sail­ing.

Con­struc­tion, as with so many other RS boats, is in rugged roto-molded poly­eth­yl­ene, with care­fully en­gi­neered hard­ware at­tach­ment points en­sur­ing low main­te­nance and a long life as suc­ces­sive waves of stu­dents are ini­ti­ated into the sport. Other smart de­tails in­clude a cen­ter­board rather than a dag­ger­board, mak­ing shoal-wa­ter ground­ings less fraught, and a wellde­signed kick-up rud­der with a sim­ple lift-and­lock sys­tem that makes it easy to get the rud­der both up and down. Like­wise, a new pro­pri­etary mast step and gate de­sign makes it easy for novices to raise and lower the mast with­out ac­ci­den­tally drop­ping it. In the event the boat turns tur­tle, an in­te­gral alu­minum handrail on the bot­tom of the boat (it dou­bles as a skid rail when the boat is dragged up a beach) al­lows a soggy crew to quickly re-right their craft.

Best of all, the boat is an ab­so­lute blast to sail, even for a 6ft-tall mid­dle-aged old fart like yours truly. Pre­par­ing to set out from the Sev­ern Sail­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, di­rectly across from the U.S. Naval Academy, I con­fess the blus­tery con­di­tions out on Ch­e­sa­peake Bay had me a bit wor­ried. It’s not keep­ing a lit­tle boat like the Zest on its feet un­der­way that had me con­cerned. It was the prospect of tack­ing and gy­bing out in all that chop. My knees just ain’t what they used to be (never were, truth be told).

One of the great things about RS, though, is not just the com­pany’s ex­pe­ri­ence, but the way it puts its new de­signs through their paces out on the wa­ter, care­fully de­bug­ging them be­fore re­leas­ing them to the pub­lic. This was ap­par­ent pretty much from the mo­ment I pushed off the dock, as the boat’s pow­er­ful foils of­fered the per­fect com­bi­na­tion of con­trol and for­give­ness so that gy­bing and tack­ing couldn’t be eas­ier: same thing with driv­ing the boat ei­ther on or off the wind.

Bet­ter still, all that space be­tween the boom and cock­pit sole meant there was plenty of room to get from side to side when ma­neu­ver­ing. Sim­i­larly, the hik­ing straps are nicely po­si­tioned, so you can slip your feet in while get­ting your weight out­board with­out hav­ing to think about it, and the sid­edecks are nicely con­toured so that life is still good once you get out there. The over­all di­men­sions of the cock­pit were also such that you never found your­self grop­ing for a place to gain some pur­chase while mov­ing about— some­thing I can as­sure you is most def­i­nitely not the case with all the dinghies out there.

Ul­ti­mately, de­spite my trep­i­da­tion I was soon hav­ing so much fun I to­tally for­got I was sail­ing a trainer and found my­self think­ing, what a great boat, pe­riod. It’s enough to al­most make this old fart want to take up dinghy sail­ing again. s

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