After three day's racing at Skandia Cowes Week the Laser SB3 has made a big hit with the RAF. Will their new J/109 make the same impact?

Had there been a prize for the team least ready for racing with one day to go before the start of Skandia Cowes Week, the Royal Air Force Sailing Association’s Offshore Division would have definitely been in the running. John Best, Rear-Commodore (Offshore Division) of RAFSA and his team recently took delivery of a brand-new Laser SB3 – on Friday (the day before the start) they were still ‘screwing’ it together on the lawn of the RAF Yacht Club in Hamble.

Fortunately they completed the task before nightfall and were able to sail it across to Cowes. Commenting on the 11th-hour mission Best said: “It was our first sail in the new vessel, which shows we were well prepared for the challenges of Cowes. Actually we only got permission from the RAF to place the order in early July, so we were pleased that Laser responded to our order so quickly.”

Best continued: “We have now sailedSynchrothree times, in three races, and have a 6th, 8thand a 9thto our credit – the results are fairly consistent but going the wrong way!”

“Synchrois an easy boat to sail, but to get the best out of her seems very demanding. She is surprisingly quick in light winds, but quite challenging to sail well – our thanks to all the good guys in the SB3 class who have shown us by example how it’s done. Thus far we have had a few seconds to study their act before they disappear into the distance.” “The boat’s at her stunning best in about 18-20kts of wind, challenging upwind, but once around the top mark, the gloves come off and she demonstrates why almost everybody that buys one can’t stop grinning. Downwind she behaves like most of the better asymmetric dinghies but without the ‘attitude’. She’s huge fun downwind and just bounces her way downwind at high speed like an exuberant puppy – awesome.”

Still with a big smile on his face from sailing the Laser SB3, Best was enthusiastic to tell us about RAFSA’s offshore division re-think. Apparently the new SB3 was the first stage of the phase. Best continued: “Our Government has decided that we [the RAF] should be ‘smaller, more effective and slimmer’, so we are following their example. We aren’t actually going on a diet, but until recently we had a Beneteau 36.7 and a Hunter 707. Phase one with the purchase of the Laser SB3 to replace the Hunter 707, is now complete (all good military projects have phases). We have just put our Beneteau 36.7 -Red Arrow- on the market. We have enjoyed sailing her but she’s going to be replaced by a J/109 in the spring which only requires seven crew. That means we shall only be looking for 10 people every weekend, a 33 per cent reduction, which should please all the grown ups.”