Boat Review: RS Zest

Author:
Publish date:
20170810_266

When it comes to sailing, the first boat a newbie sets foot on can make all the difference in the world; which is why our editors were especially impressed with the new Zest training dinghy from RS Sailing when they selected it as one of their winners in SAIL’s 2018 Best Boat contest. Its sprightly yet predictable performance, ergonomic design and easily handled rig all combine to make the boat user-friendly, safe and fun to sail.

A bright yellow sculpted thwart seat provides inboard seating for small crew not yet comfortable with hiking and doubles as a rowing seat when the optional oarlocks and oars are in use. Intermediate side-seats and comfortable side-decks in the main cockpit also allow less experienced sailors to stay comfortable while driving the boat. The boom is nice and high to help prevent head-on-alloy encounters, and the boat can be sloop-rigged with a jib to keep a crew of two (or even three) entertained, or una-rigged with just a mainsail for solo sailing.

Construction, as with so many other RS boats, is in rugged roto-molded polyethylene, with carefully engineered hardware attachment points ensuring low maintenance and a long life as successive waves of students are initiated into the sport. Other smart details include a centerboard rather than a daggerboard, making shoal-water groundings less fraught, and a well-designed kick-up rudder with a simple lift-and-lock system that makes it easy to get the rudder both up and down. Likewise, a new proprietary mast step and gate design makes it easy for novices to raise and lower the mast without accidentally dropping it. In the event the boat turns turtle, an integral aluminum handrail on the bottom of the boat (it doubles as a skid rail when the boat is dragged up a beach) allows a soggy crew to quickly re-right their craft.

Best of all, the boat is an absolute blast to sail, even for a 6ft-tall middle-aged old fart like yours truly. Preparing to set out from the Severn Sailing Association, directly across from the U.S. Naval Academy, I confess the blustery conditions out on Chesapeake Bay had me a bit worried. It’s not keeping a little boat like the Zest on its feet underway that had me concerned. It was the prospect of tacking and gybing out in all that chop. My knees just ain’t what they used to be (never were, truth be told).

One of the great things about RS, though, is not just the company’s experience, but the way it puts its new designs through their paces out on the water, carefully debugging them before releasing them to the public. This was apparent pretty much from the moment I pushed off the dock, as the boat’s powerful foils offered the perfect combination of control and forgiveness so that gybing and tacking couldn’t be easier: same thing with driving the boat either on or off the wind.

Better still, all that space between the boom and cockpit sole meant there was plenty of room to get from side to side when maneuvering. Similarly, the hiking straps are nicely positioned, so you can slip your feet in while getting your weight outboard without having to think about it, and the sidedecks are nicely contoured so that life is still good once you get out there. The overall dimensions of the cockpit were also such that you never found yourself groping for a place to gain some purchase while moving about—something I can assure you is most definitely not the case with all the dinghies out there.

Ultimately, despite my trepidation, I was soon having so much fun I totally forgot I was sailing a trainer and found myself thinking, what a great boat, period. It’s enough to almost make this old fart want to take up dinghy sailing again. 

branded

Specifications

LOA 11ft 9in

BEAM 4ft 10in

HULL WEIGHT 150lb

SAIL AREA 71ft (main and jib); 59ft(main alone)

SA/D RATIO 25 (jib and main, plus 150lb of crew)

D/L RATIO 79 (jib and main, plus 150lb of crew)

What do these ratios mean? Visit sailmagazine.com/ratios

DESIGNER Jo Richards/RS Sailing

BUILDER RS Sailing, Hampshire, UK, rssailing.com

U.S. DISTRIBUTORS Sailing North America,

todd@rssailing.com

PRICE $4,274 (sailaway) at time of publication

October 2018

Related

furlex2

Know-how: Installing an Electric Furler

Push-Button Reefing Boats have never been easier to sail, and yet, designers and builders still strive for that extra iota or two of convenience. A case in point is the growing acceptance of powered headsail furlers. Roller-furling headsails are ubiquitous not only on cruising ...read more

New-Lead

Know-how: Modify a Blackwater System

My dissatisfaction with the head and holding tank plumbing arrangement on our 1987 Sabre 38 had grown as we cruised the boat away from the comforts of a marina for longer periods of time. When we are tied up at a marina, the use of regular bathrooms generally trumps the ...read more

01-LEAD-Suzuki-55f19d31e297c

Choosing the Right Outboard

Two of the most indispensable items on board a cruising yacht are a dinghy and an outboard motor. At anchor or on a buoy, of course, they are your only means of getting ashore. They also have a thousand other uses. For example, they can allow you to motor across to friends’ ...read more

2019-giftGuide

2019 Holiday Gift Guide

Sailing America Rizzoli International Publications has released this striking portrait of American sailing by nautical photography legend Onne van der Wal just in time for the holidays. Featuring 200 stunning photographs spanning the length and breadth of the sailing scene—from ...read more

01-Sailing-La-Vagabonde,-Outremer-48

Cruising: the Vagabonde Life

Once upon a time conquering your dream of sailing off into the sunset was enough, but these days it seems like you have to be popular on social media too. Balancing the stresses of sailing around the world while keeping a successful—not to mention financially lucrative—social ...read more

191114

Video: 11th Hour Racing Arrives in Brazil

Team 11th Hour Racing finished in fourth place this past week among the 29 IMOCA 60s competing in the 4,335-mile doublehanded Transat Jacques Vabre race from Le Havre, France, to Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. Aboard were American Charlie Enright and French sailor Pascal Bidégorry, ...read more

Video--Edmond-de-Rothschild-Maxi-tri-Pitstop

Video: Edmond de Rothschild Maxi-tri Pitstop

. On Sunday, after having been first across the equator in the Brest Atlantiques race , Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier aboard the Ultime maxi-tri Maxi Edmond de Rothschild reported they’d be making a pitstop in Salvador de Bahia, in Brazil, after damaging one of their ...read more

T31A4577

Cruising the Eagle Class 53

Sailing at 19 knots in 15 knots of breeze is not an earth-shattering experience anymore. I was thinking about that on a perfect late summer day in Narragansett Bay while we were slicing along on the most technologically advanced cruising catamaran I’ve ever seen—the Eagle Class ...read more