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First look at the RS21: More than 'just another keelboat'

by Mark Jardine 20 Jan 03:56 PST

On the 12th January the RS21 was announced with the bold headline 'New RS21 to help bring popularity back to keelboat racing', which led some to state keelboat racing is doing just fine, and why is another boat necessary in a sector which already has the SB20, J/70, J/80, VX-One, Melges 24, Viper 640, K6 and RS's own Elite?

But the RS21 isn't just another keelboat...

As discussed in our RS Sailing 2017 Season Round-Up, the team at RS have evolved their design philosophy to one which aims all aspects of the design process towards the end-user of that boat, with the RS Zest highlighting that approach. But the ambitions of RS don't stop with just dinghies, and the RS21 is possibly already the most exciting boat launch of 2018.

On we've been talking about participation in the sport of sailing for some time, and 12 months ago highlighted how club-owned fleets could be vital to revitalising sailing due to three factors causing difficulties for sailors; time, cost and space. The problem for clubs in many cases is that of maintenance and resource, and the RS21 is designed from the ground-up with the solution in mind.

The RS21 is a 21 foot (6.34m) keelboat with a displacement of 675kg, where nearly half that weight is in the keel bulb. The rig isn't huge, the design isn't too extreme and it feels very roomy in the cockpit. There are clear Jo Richards features, with the bow evolved from a 'Dead Cat Bounce' National 12. Then there are Alex Newton-Southon's innovations, such as the central pod electric engine which can be raised into the hull.

Everything about the boat is angled towards simplicity, space and stability, while providing a fun sailing experience for all on board. By keeping the control systems to an absolute minimum, the ergonomics of the boat are clean and the cockpit spacious. Low-maintenance design should keep the cost of ownership down and the RS Sustainability Policy demands the use of recycled materials, reducing the impact of the boat on the environment.

Importantly, all the sails can be stored inside the boat and there's a very neat central storage locker, which I'm sure will make a good beer cooler for evening racing!

RS Sailing are already thinking about marina dollies with short arm versions with the keel up, and long arm versions so that the rudder can be left on and the keel left down - which will be ideal for dry sailing with a single-point crane lift. There's also the option of trailer or trolley launching.

All these attributes point towards the RS21 being the ideal boat for club-owned fleets, and owners short on time who are looking for a keelboat to sail with their mates in weekend or weekday evening racing.

The public get their first view of the RS21 in the flesh at the Dusseldorf Boat Show, and I'm very much looking forward to getting out on the water on this boat.

The RS21 isn't just another small keelboat – it's a concept that could help boost participation in sailing.