London Boat Show's two singlehanders

We look at the new K1 while LDC's Martin Wadhams gives us a video guided tour of the new RS100

Friday January 15th 2010, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom
There are two new dinghies on display at the Tullett Prebon London Boat Show this week, with two common themes: they are both singlehanders and both have been designed by Reigate-based Paul Handley, who’s previous portfolio includes the RS Feva, Tera, Q’BA and K6 as well as (in the dark distant past) the Mustang 30. The difference between the new boats is that the RS100 is what you might imagine from the smallest member of the RS200-RS800 family with a main and asymmetric kite, while the K1, being sold by Vandercraft, has a lifting keel and a more conservative sail plan with main and self-tacking jib on a boom.

Apart from being a highly attractive-looking affair, partly thanks to specialist styling work RS had done to it, the RS100 has several innovative features such as a mast that can be dropped down by around 1ft (the shrouds attach to a different set of fittings further up the mast) and this broadens the weight range of sailors who can race it from, RS’s Managing Director Martin Wadhams reckons, 70-100kg.

See Martin Wadhams’ video guided tour to the RS100 here .

Over on the Hyde Sails stand is the K1 keelboat where designer Paul Handley was on hand to give us the guided tour. The set-up with the K1 is that Handley designed it and funded its development (as he did originally with the RS Tera) but the sales of the boats are being handled by Jeff Van der Borght at Vandercraft while the boat is constructed in Romsey by Jamie Stewart (Ossie’s nephew) at Synthesize Yachts.

Paul Handley (left) with Jeff Van der Borght

According to Paul Handley, the K1 has come about from thoughts he had originally for the RS K6. That started life as a singlehander with a keel and an asymmetric kite before it was scaled up to become the now familiar doublehander. “Really this preceded the K6 and it has taken me all these years to come back to it. If you are out on the sea and want a blast with an asymmetric kite you are more likely to go for the RS 100 which will give you a bit more speed because you don’t have the weight of the bulb. With this the focus was redirected not just to inland, but to people who are more interested in tactical racing and it will still go fast upwind.” One imagines it will also suit those of a less athletic disposition who might even want to cruise it. Handley says that the K1 is also proving to be of interest to those who have had higher performance boats in the past, but are now looking for something less extreme.

Compared to the K6, the boat obviously doesn’t have the asymmetric kite and while the K6 is slim, the K1 is narrower still for its length. “The idea is that the crew weight does less, because there is less beam, it is quite round underneath and narrow on the waterline, so it can heel readily without slowing it down,” says Handley. “You have a 60kg bulb and a 50% ballast ratio, so the bulb comes out to windward and that’s like a 10 stone crew hanging out for you and the more you heel the more he is hanging out.” Without a kite, chances of turning the boat over are rare, but thanks to the keel and narrow beam it should right itself readily should this ever occur.

Construction of the boat uses infusion and vinylester resin around a core material of Lantor Soric, a product especially designed for the infusion process. Compared to a typical Corematt boat built with polyester resin, the K1’s laminate represents a 20% weight saving, Handley estimates, and this is mainly due to the use of the special core material. He reckons that they are within 5-10% of the epoxy-foam laminate of the RS100. One of the reasons by Handley says he hooked up with builder Jamie Stewart was because he had worked with these materials before. Stewart’s company Synthesize Yachts also builds the few new RS800s that are ordered these days, but also builds the Artemis 20.

So the result is an extremely light boat, the hull only weighing 50kg. “The concept all along is that it is a keel boat that a sailor can launch and recover on their own. A bigger keelboat or one like the Illusion, which weighs 400-500kg, they can only sail where they have a crane or special launching facilities.”

The keel has 60kg of lead encapsulated in it and epoxy resin was used for the foil. The boat is launched with kick-up rudder and the keel raised - to raise the keel this there is a simple 6:1 purchase from an eye on the mast (about 1m up from the boom).

Compared to the RS100 the cockpit layout is very simple. It is just over 1ft deep and the curved deck looks comfortable to sit on. Typically the helm will perch just aft of the shrouds and so the mainsheet leads forward to a block just aft of the mast step, next to the kicker. Aside from setting the degree of sheeting according to the point of sail, the self-tacking jib otherwise looks after itself.

Obviously with jib and main, the boat might seem under powered downwind, but the jib boom has a similar effect to poling out the jib and this set-up allows the ability to sail dead downwind goosewinged.

Handley provides the anecdote: “Going downwind I was sailing against an RS200 in about a Force 5 before Christmas and it was a similar speed upwind and heeling the boat slightly to get the balance I was goosewinged and planning downwind straight to the mark. I got down the other end and he was about 400-500 yard behind. It is really quick off the wind.”

So could a kite be added in the future? “I was doing the 100 at the same time as this, so I didn’t want to confuse the markets,” admits Handley. “Somewhere down the line if there was enough demand for it, I might look at a kite version but we’d call it something else.” Handley doesn’t reckon it would require more lead in the bulb to achieve this.

“With the RS 100 – I was of the school of thought that what we wanted was not another Vareo, but an asymmetric kite boat that you could reach downwind while hiking and you could sail on a course and fly on a reach. But once you got the public in it, they wanted a bigger kite and they start saying ‘you aren’t going to go on a reach with a kite, you may as well go with a massive kite for running downwind’. But then you lose the ability to reach across the wind with the kite which would be its fastest point of sailing. No one has done a Laser-type boat with a little kite which would be a rocket on the reach, because they always go for the downwind speed.”

An interesting aspect of the keelboat is that while the RS100 has its clever big and less big rig configurations thereby allowing it to be sailed competitively by crews of a wide weight range, Handley reckons the K1 achieves the same because of the keel, which he considers almost like another crewman. Due to the keel weight he points out that the K1 crew represents a smaller percentage of the boat’s all-up displacement and of its righting moment. “We are hoping that the range of competitive weight for this will be twice as big as it is on a normal singlehanded dinghy. And because you are heeled you are bringing the helmsman’s weight in as the bulb goes out, whereas on the RS100 the helmsman is right out.” So like the RS100 the competitive crew weight range he believes will be 70-100kg.

The price of the K1 at present is £5990 including trolley and trailer. While the prototype was on display at Southampton (the first production boat is on the Hyde stand), but without having done any sea trials to date, they have already sold 10 (although in comparison RS has orders already for a whopping one hundred RS100s). Aside from the UK, where Handley reckons they might sell 20 a year, he believes the market for the boat will be good in Switzerland and southern Germany, where the K5 also sold well. Test sails of the K1 start after the London Boat Show is over.

More pics of the K1 on page 2 ...

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