A beach cat for the Facebook generation
If timing is everything, then veteran UK dinghy builder RS should have no problems with its RS Cat 16, which features wave-piercing bows just like those on an AC72. Boats like this look to be all the rage, especially among Russell Coutts’s “Facebook generation.” You’d be hard-pressed to find a better platform for channeling your inner Jimmy Spithill.
Like a number of other RS models—including the RS Tera dinghy and the RS500 two-person skiff—the RS Cat 16 is available in multiple configurations. These include a basic “Club” variant, which flies only a loose-footed mainsail, and an “S” version for juniors and families, which comes with a jib and a single trapeze. There’s also a hopped-up “XL” version for more experienced hands that includes dual trapezes and a gennaker, which is launched from a sock and flies off a substantial sprit. (The gennaker can also be added on as an option with the S version.)
All versions have the same rotomolded hulls and one-piece rotating Seldén aluminum mast with no boom. The twin aluminum rudders have a nifty “lift and lock” feature that allows them to be quickly retracted or deployed when sailing on or off a beach. There is a substantial carbon-fiber tiller extension to facilitate hiking and/or trapezing, and the tops of the two hulls are concave to make for more comfortable seating for the crew.
The cat can be easily disassembled with a wrench for SUV-topping or storage, and has a clever attachment system wherein the sturdy extruded-aluminum crossbeams are secured with just eight bolts. All-up weight is just 308lb, making for easy handling. The boat’s 133ft2 of working sail (including the 25ft2 jib), plus its 138ft2 A-sail provide plenty of horsepower whether you’re sailing singlehanded or with a crew.
During my test sail, the wind was light, rarely topping 10 knots, but it didn’t matter. Reaching back and forth on the Chesapeake just off Annapolis with RS managing director Martin Wadhams was an absolute blast, despite the fact there was never enough pressure to justify getting a lunker beast my size out on the trapeze.
Even under main and jib alone, the RS Cat 16 sizzled along, its wave-piercing bows doing their thing while a pair of laser-beam-straight wakes stretched out astern. A few minutes later, we hoisted the A-sail, and life became very satisfying indeed, as both the wake and piercing action became that much more pronounced.
Throughout our sail and at all wind angles, the helm was solid and responsive. Underway with a good head of steam, the boat easily locked onto a heading and then balanced there easily. Yet when it came time to maneuver, the boat was also fully capable of pirouetting on a dime.
Skewering the occasional powerboat wake was equally satisfying, as the wave-piercing bows were quite effective. Clearly, whether you’re looking to race or just knock around on and off the beach with some friends, the RS Cat 16 will be a lot of fun.
LOA 15ft 6in
BEAM 7ft 9in
DRAFT 1ft 5in
SAIL AREA 133ft2
SA/D RATIO 31 (with 250lb of crew) D/L RATIO 67 (with 250lb of crew)
What do these ratios mean? Visit sailmagazine.com/ratios
DESIGNER Jo Richards/RS design team
BUILDER RS Sailing, Hampshire, UK
U.S. DISTRIBUTOR RS Sailing North America, Chicago,
PRICE $8,500 (sailaway)
Images courtesy of RS Sailing