Similar breed

We take a look at how close the Musto Skiff and RS700 are

Tuesday October 31st 2006, Author: Toby Heppell, Location: United Kingdom
Two very similar high performance singlehanded boats have emerged and been thriving on the UK scene in recent years. It is hard to see any difference between the Musto Skiff and the RS700 at first, but they are there to be seen.

In terms of their dimensions, the two boats are very similar to one another - something which has caused a great deal of rivalry between the two classes: On the most basic level both are single handed high performance trapeze boats with a spinnaker. Both boats are around 5.5m long, with the Musto coming in at 4.55m and the 700 13cm longer at 4.68m. Both are extremely similar in weight – the Musto weighs 80kg and the 700 79kg.

While very similar in a number of ways, the two boats do have their differences. Most noticeable when side by side is the variation in style of cockpit layout. The Musto is more similar to a 49er with a very clean flat deck and very minimal actual cockpit. The 700 on the other hand has a much more traditional design and seems to be a boat you are able to sit in as opposed to on.

A man most familiar with the difference between the two boats is RS700 UK National Champion, Paul Bayliss, who we caught up with at the recent Endeavour Trophy. “I sailed the Musto once in the early days and it seemed to me that fundamentally the boats are very similar,” he says “They are both a similar length, a similar width the rig sizes are about the same. In very course terms there is not much between them. The subtleties and differences lie in the way the boats are laid out and the cockpit ergonomics.”

One of Bayliss’s Musto Skiff sailing nemisis, Ian Turnbull gives his view: These cockpit ergonomics are something of a debate between the sailors as to which is better. “When I sailed a 700 it really felt as though it was a boat I should sit in and I found that made getting across for tacks and gybes much harder than they were on the Musto.”

In terms of sail areas, they are similar for both boats but the Musto (main: 11.8sqm. spinnaker: 15.5sqm) has slightly less sail than the 700 (main 12.8sqm,spinnaker 16sqm.) The 700s also use of a semi battened mainsail where the Musto has a fully battened one. “The soft mainsail, I think one of the reasons boats in general terms went towards the soft mainsail (in the 14s there was a trend of having fully battened at the top and soft mains at the bottom) was because the cloth has got a lot more stable with Mylar and Kevlar reinforcement,” opinions Bayliss. “The need for full battens to hold the main in shape has by and large been made obsolete,”. whereas Turnbull, retorts; “I think the fully battened main on the Musto makes it more of a challenge. It is more like a proper high performance skiff.”

Another major difference between the two boats is the 700 offers a weight equalisation system where the Musto does not. Weight equalisation is a tricky subject as on paper it seems to mean a much wider range of people are able to sail the boat, but, in reality there is often an optimum weight even with equalisation and to some extent this negates its existence. Even though this seems like an obvious difference between the two boats there is some confusion as to how it does so. “There is a slight anomaly with the weight issue because there seems to be the perception that if you are a smaller person you would go for the Musto Skiff whereas if you are a larger person you would go for the 700. Personally I think that is the wrong way round. If you are a lighter person I would think you would want to go to the wider racks,” says Bayliss.

There is an interesting discrepancy in the speed of the two boats as well. Although the 700 is faster than the Musto on paper (it has a quicker handicap rating) the Mustos have beaten the 700s over the water on both occasions the two boats have gone head to head at the Holt Tide Ride in 2005 and 2006. Although this may seem odd there are a number of reasons why the Musto appears the faster. Firstly the Musto sailors could have got lucky or could have simply sailed better, or the handicaps may be wrong. As many will know the handicap system in the UK is based on clubs sending off their results for the season. These are then examined and if one class is dominating everything their handicap is is increased and vice versa. Although this yardstick system provides a good rule of thumb it is by no means perfectly accurate so if there were more clubs with one boat or the other sending in their returns one handicap could be accurate, another vague.

although both boats are single manufacturer one design (SMOD) classes they have a very different approach to the running of their class associations, butthey both seem to work. The 700, being a part of the RS empire, has a much more professionally-run association which, in conjunction with other RSes, employs people full time to run the various classes. Also because they have events with other RS classes present you are more or less guaranteed large championships with hundreds of people there, even if they are not all sailing the same class of boat as you. Conversely the Musto has a much more personalised class association. Much of what they do involves their very active website where they exchange ideas, volunteer to run free training days or hold official polls about where the next Nationals should be. From the outside it seems both offer a slightly different thing: The 700 appears to be a much less active class where you can turn up to an event, ready to sail and meet a wide variety of people with minimum effort. The Musto skiff class seems to be a more involved personal class but with more effort (and so time) required of its members.

Although both classes run very different class associations they are clearly both thriving in the UK with fifty one 700s at this year’s National Championship and forty eight 700s. Although – and here is another interesting difference – most of he Musto Skiff fleet comes from the north and most of the 700 fleet comes from the south. The reasons for this are pretty simple, the Musto was originally brought out in the UK by Ovington Boats in Newcastle while the 700 is by RS who are based on the south coast.

In the future there could be a considerable difference between the two boats as they both start to sell in larger numbers away from UK shores. There have been rumours both boats are going for ISAF-recognised status. “If ISAF status has made or broken any class these days - I do not see it affecting the British market which is the dominant of the classes at the moment,” comments Bayliss “In a way I think a boat’s success is down to more fundamental factors than perhaps ISAF recognise to be absolutely honest. I believe both boats are going for it when they have sorted the relevant paperwork to do it, but it certainly would not affect my choice of boat.”.

Although ISAF status may not initially affect the UK market it would seem if one boat gets it and the other does not it could be seen as an indication ISAF believe one boat to be better than the other and that could do some harm.

With both boats being so similar, you could clearly have a lot of fun sailing either of them on a regular basis. There is a question as to whether they will both survive, but it seems at the moment they have both found a niche far enough away from each other to thrive, for the time being.

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