"20 Years of Awesome" RS Sailing reach 20 year Anniversary01/03/2014
2014 sees the 20th Anniversary of the sailboat brand RS Sailing, with boats suitable for learning and training right up to high performance skiff sailing - and all ages and sailing styles in between.
It all began with a group of sailors sat on a sea wall discussing the fact that there were many developments in sailboat design and construction, but only a few "exotic" classes using them, so an opportunity existed to create new classes that moved the game forward for many more sailors. The vision was born to use these advances to develop boats that would make higher performance, more exciting boats, more accessible.
RS Sailing decided to launch two new classes at the same time for maximum impact, despite limited resources. Development teams were assembled consisting of hull designers, hull manufacturers, hardware suppliers and Hyde Sails as sailmaker - all overseen by Nick Peters, who retired from RS Sailing just last year. This has proven to be really successful and the development process has never changed - only the team has evolved.
The RS400 and RS600 were the first two boats; developed through 1993 and launched at the London Boat Show in January 1994. The reaction to both boats was so exciting with orders placed immediately and incredible enthusiasm from a whole range of sailors. A number of them are still involved today - one of the very first guys to buy a 400 ordered yet another new one just last week. We love that.
Another element of the RS vision was to create events that were fantastic from both sailing and social perspectives, whether you were at the front, middle or back of the fleet. The RS racing circuits, awesome people and the camaraderie have, from the outset, played a huge part in the RS story. Even at the highest level, both in RS adult and junior classes, there is a spirit of competition while having a good time, helping others improve and socialising without experience level barriers. The first National Championships were at Hayling Island and saw about sixty boats come together for the first true RS festival of all that we all love about small boat sailing - and the die was cast.
Following the successful introduction of the RS400 and 600 classes we added boats to the range, filling niches where development had been relatively static. These were all performance racing boats, mainly sold in the UK, with the RS200 particularly strong - currently the UK's strongest adult double-handed class; highly competitive and with an incredible reputation for lively events afloat and ashore.
In 2003 the market was broadened with the first RS rotomoulded multi-purpose boat that would have training and recreational markets, as well as a junior racing Class - the RS Feva was born.
These broader markets gave the opportunity to begin building the RS Sailing international dealer network. As the network has grown and the RS range become more established, international sales have increased rapidly - now representing well over 60% of our sales, with RS dealers in around 40 countries.
The last ten years has seen steady expansion to the range of multi purpose boats such as the RS Tera, a superb entry level junior single-hander, inspiring young sailors in a truly exciting, affordable and durable boat. The RS Feva became RS Sailing's most successful Class and the world's best selling two person sailboat every year since 2006. Feva World Championships attract approaching 200 boats and the Class is still rapidly expanding into new regions - North America being one of the latest. Just last week the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club ordered their first fleet and the first shipment of Fevas left for Qatar.
Several RS designs have earned ISAF Class status and we are incredibly proud that our boats have been selected by sailing programmes, including National Sailing Authorities, across the world for projects to help build sailing participation.
Excitement and momentum is still brewing at RS HQ as the launch of an RS boat for a group of sailors not previously catered for kick started 2014. The RS Venture Keel with its Sailability equipment options genuinely will help more sailors get afloat. The interchangeable gear means the boat can be used by able-bodied sailors in the morning and set up in Sailability mode in the afternoon - a major advantage for many clubs and sailing centres, echoed by the gratifying response from the Sailability community.
Martin Wadhams, Managing Director of RS Sailing commented, "It has been a privilege to work with so many great people in creating and building the RS brand over the last 20 years and to make so many good friends among the amazing RS sailing community. The team here at RS have been absolutely pivotal to the success. Everyone plays a part but I can't list them all so I'd like to mention Alex Southon, Jon Partridge and Riki Hooker, our directors. Everything is possible with people like them. Right now we are absolutely flat-out delivering boats to destinations all over the world and the next generation of RS sailors. Awesome."
The latest RS development could be the biggest Class of all. The RS Aero is, in many ways, a 21st century Laser. And just like the first RS boats, its key features use further developments in technology to define its reason for being - creating a "full size" single-hander that weighs just 30kg - the same as an Optimist! You can easily imagine just how exciting and responsive that feels. Over three years of development and through four versions of the hull, many sailors have given feedback - from club sailors to Ben Ainslie... (who wouldn't come ashore) and nearly all of them have said they want one. The RS Aero will be unveiled at the RYA Dinghy Show in London this weekend 1-2 March 2014.