The RS21 is in­tended to be a fast, safe keel­boat for sailors of all abil­i­ties

Soundings - - Contents - BY PIM VAN HEM­MEN

The RS21 com­bines mod­ern tech with good, old-fash­ioned de­sign sense in a keel­boat that is fast, af­ford­able and fun to sail.

There were plenty of large boats in the wa­ter at the re­cent United States Sail­boat Show in An­napo­lis, Mary­land. They were fun to tour and drew large crowds. How­ever, Sound­ings Se­nior Ed­i­tor Gary Re­ich and I found some­thing dif­fer­ent on land: the RS21 from British man­u­fac­turer RS Sail­ing.

The builder de­scribes the RS21 as “a new 21-foot keel­boat,” a la­bel that made me skep­ti­cal about its chances of find­ing an au­di­ence. Sail­ing con­tin­ues to be de­scribed by some as an ac­tiv­ity that is too slow, too bor­ing, too hard to learn and too ex­pen­sive for younger gen­er­a­tions. An­other small keel­boat struck me as an un­likely can­di­date to ad­dress those chal­lenges.

How­ever, the com­pany also says that “the boat was cre­ated so that any­one can sail, and will want to sail.” That part of the pitch sounded in­ter­est­ing. So, we took a closer look at the RS21.

It was sit­ting high up on its trailer, tucked in a far cor­ner of the boat show. With its chined hull, re­tractable bowsprit and car­bon-com­pos­ite mast, the RS21 at first glance looked like a fast sport boat for high- per­for­mance sailors. But Todd Riccardi of RS Sail­ing North Amer­ica quickly set us straight.

“The boat is bet­ter bal­anced than a sport boat and will not spin out, even in 30- knot winds,” he said. “It’s in­tended for begin­ners to One-De­sign rac­ers. It’s a boat for ev­ery­body.”

To that end, in­stead of hik­ing straps the boat in­cludes “granny bars” for the skip­per, and life­lines to keep the crew on board.

The keel, which weighs 650 pounds and makes up al­most half of the boat’s 1,433 pounds, should make it more for­giv­ing to sail. The RS21 is not light for a keel­boat of this size, but it should be safer and eas­ier to sail for less-ex­pe­ri­enced hands. (For com­par­i­son, a Melges 20 weighs 1,146 pounds with a 450pound keel.) With a draft of 4 feet, 6 inches, the keel should pro­vide plenty of right­ing mo­ment, even against a 175-square-foot rac­ing main, an 83-square-foot rac­ing jib and a 375-square-foot gen­naker. The boat’s cock­pit is large for a 20-footer. RS Sail­ing says it can be raced by two to four peo­ple and can ac­com­mo­date six peo­ple for sail train­ing.

The builder put a heavy em­pha­sis on sus­tain­abil­ity and sim­plic­ity. The hull’s cor­ing is made of re­cy­cled plas­tic bot­tles, and to re­duce its car­bon foot­print, the RS21 is sized to fit six boats to a 40-foot ship­ping con­tainer. The mast comes in two parts, and the keel and stan­chions are re­mov­able, al­low­ing mul­ti­ple hulls to be stacked for trans­port, and to save space for win­ter stor­age. The op­tional Torqeedo elec­tric drive is en­ergy-friendly and elim­i­nates the need for petroleum-based fuels.

RS Sail­ing placed the Torqeedo en­gine in the main­sheet base half­way be­tween the keel and the rud­der, where it can be raised and low­ered through the hull. In the raised po­si­tion, a bot­tom plate be­low the pro­pel­ler seals the Torqeedo flush in­side the boat. On deck, the Torqeedo then slides into a pro­tec­tive hoop above the main­sheet base. Two bat­ter­ies can be stowed in­side a wa­ter­proof hatch for­ward of the mast.

The RS21 is aimed at club rac­ing. It comes in two mod­els: the One-De­sign with My­lar main, jib and asym­met­ri­cal spin­naker for $39,220, and the Club model with a smaller Dacron main and jib for $34,950.

Only time will tell if the RS21 will catch on in the United States, but if it does, it should be a fun way to in­tro­duce more peo­ple to sail­ing and keep them in­ter­ested for years to come.

The RS21 is de­signed for begin­ners to One-De­sign rac­ers. LOA: 20’11” Beam: 7’3” Draft: 4’6” Displ.: 1,433 lbs.

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