The first Champion

Sam Pascoe talks about the RS600FF and his latest win in the class

Wednesday October 22nd 2008, Author: Toby Heppell, Location: United Kingdom
The first ever RS600FF National Championships took place this weekend in fantastic conditions in Hayling Island (see event report here.) The event was won convincingly by foiling guru, Sam Pascoe, who has been the man to beat in the class since he started testing the boat in the early days of its development.

Pascoe has been a foiler for many years now, having started in the early days of the foiling Moth in the UK. He quickly became an integral part of the Mothing scene, winning the UK National Championships in 2006 and finishing fourth at the 2007 World Championships in Garda. Weight, however, had long been the bane of Pascoe’s moth career, being up in the 80kg zone, when much of the fleet is hovering around the mid to late 60kg mark. Although, as he proved, this did not seem to hinder him too much, it was also clear a foiler designed for the heavyweight would be a slightly better option for him.

While still Moth sailing, Pascoe went to work for Linton Jenkins at Full Force Boats, primarily building the Mistress design Moths as well as other work the company took onboard. It was while this was happening Jenkins began to develop the foiling 600 with Pascoe’s considerable experience as a foiler making him the perfect test pilot.

We have long followed the progress of the RS600FF from initial sightings in Weymouth Harbour, to the recent announcements that it would be supported by RS and that new RS600FFs would be of all carbon construction. As such we were excited to hear about the first National Championships for the class, even if it was a fairly low-key affair.

It was of little surprise Pascoe took victory at the event and, in honesty, most probably presumed he would win from the outset. Not only did he win the regatta, though, he won it emphatically, winning every single race through the course of the weekend. Pascoe is fairly modest about his performance, simply saying; “it went well, I am pretty happy.” Perhaps more than his victory – and in his role still working for Full Force – Pascoe is pleased with the turnout of boats, to the inaugural event. “We have sold 27 boats so far and of them only 25 remain in the UK, so to get 16 boats turning up was pretty impressive,” he explains. Certainly this is a good turnout, particularly for such a specialist class.

Interestingly, as is the case for all development classes – although the RS600FF is not a development class, it is certainly a class that has been developed – equipment being used at the Nationals varied widely, from competitor to competitor. The most obvious difference when looking at the boats out on the water was in sails. Where much of the fleet has now bought a new Hyde sail – specially designed for the foiling 600 and is much flatter with a larger flexing head – there are still a good few out there competing with the older, much fuller sail. Alistair Richardson for example was sailing the whole weekend in his 600 with the old sail, finishing the event in fourth place. “He was using an old sail and going very well. However, when the wind got up it was clear he was struggling for speed with the fuller rig up,” Pascoe explains.

In addition to the two different rigs being used there are actually three various types of RS600 hull being used out on the water now. These effectively fall into two categories: the pre-foil boats and the post foil boats. Essentially there are two different pre-foil RS600s, those made by RMW Marine and those made by Ovington Boats, later. Then, since the foil package has come out, Full Force have been working on an all-carbon boat which is now being sold into the marketplace. “Obviously we have put lead in the carbon boats. The plan is to put lead in all boats so they are all of equal weight,” says Pascoe,, though it is a reasonably safe bet to assume at some point there will be a move to take the lead out and letting the new all-carbon boats perform as they should. “I did not feel that I was at a particular advantage sailing the carbon boat with the lead in,” he continues. Having said this, the additional stiffness of a carbon hull must make some small differences even with the weight advantage effectively neutralised. It is also worth noting that first place and second place overall at the regatta were both all new carbon boats.

Above: Pascoe back in his Moth days.

While on the subject of the first two boats at the event it was with interest we noted both Pascoe and second placed, Alex Knight – who was top Brit at this year’s Moth World Championship - were Moth sailors to begin with, beating some pretty established names, such as Richardson. In fact, it seems the foiling 600 fleet is attracting the same two markets as the Moth currently does; those that are committed foilers and those who are established names, who have simply bought a boat as part plaything. “I suppose time foiling before the 600 would be an advantage,” Pascoe comments. “The things that really need to be sorted are the starts and then foiling gybes. I noticed this weekend that a lot of people had said they could foiling gybe but when it came to trying to get one in under pressure at a specific moment in a race, I did not see many of them being pulled off.”

Looking in from outside the class there have been some who have questioned RS’s involvement as, despite it being officially backed by them and called the RS600FF, clearly RS do not build the boats or the foils and it has a different sail to the original design. Those who question the involvement of RS usually wonder what the 600FF fleet gets out of being the RS600FF. “Well, many clubs are asking for greater numbers for open meetings now, so it really helps being a part of the RS crowd as we are assured a big turnout and so a decent venue,” Pascoe explains. However, it is also clear the FF is in something of its own space. Pascoe confirms that although the class is going to be doing some events with the other RS fleets next year they are also going to be combining a few of their open meetings with the Moth fleet, to make some, presumably, very impressive foiling displays. Perhaps the biggest event for the fleet next year will be an RS gathering in Carnac, providing those with foiling 600s the chance to sail them in a more tropical location than usual.

As to the future for Pascoe, the 600 is going to remain his main area of interest and he is clearly going to be the man to beat in the class for some time yet. However, next year could well see him making a return to the Moth scene in addition to his foiling 600 antics. “I would like to go to the Worlds next year – which are planned to be in the Gorge, USA, variously tipped as a high wind destination – but I will have to see how the money situation works out, if I can afford it, I will definitely go to the US.”

With carbon boats now being churned out by Full Force – they are currently building their fourth – and the development of the boat well and truly concluded, it is now very easy to purchase an RS600FF that has been purpose-built for foiling. However, with weight still added to the hulls and no solid plans to remove it in the near future, buying a second hand boat and having it fitted with new foils is still a cheap, viable option for the foiling beginner. We hope to see more RS600FFs out on the water next year, and a bigger and better Nationals.

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