A day's racing onboard RS Elite Pandemonium proves much more civilised than a yachty might fear 05/8/07

There had been initial warnings from work colleagues about sailing in the white boat fleet: “Ooo – you’ll be sore in the morning.” But any apprehensions I had, even before stepping onto the Island, were soon dashed when I spoke to Martin Wadham, Managing Director of LCD Racing Sail Boats. An ambassador for RS boats, and skipper onboard one of the ten RS Elites racing this year at Skandia Cowes Week, he explained: “The [RS] Elite is not a hard boat to sail. It’s fast and a real pleasure to sail, but it isn’t a sports boat, so you don’t have to be physically strong to be able to race one competitively.” Perfect. I’ll join him.

The Solent wind on Sunday morning was proving fluky on the start line, and all fleets were having to beat strong tides to gain an advantage. Fortunately we had master navigator Mike Austen onboard and were able to get away with the frontrunners. With the pack away well, I was surprised at how fast we were moving and it wasn’t long before the first mark was insight.

The initial beat was a short one, but gave me plenty of time to survey the boat. The cockpit is surprisingly big, due to the long, narrow shape of the hull, and there is plenty of room for the three crew – probably even four. There is masses of stability, and the rigging is easily controlled from whatever position. Our boat may have been calledPandemonium, but it was anything but.

Rounding the first mark there was a definite lead building asCiao Bellamoved away from the rest of the fleet. We rounded in second,Duelthird. For the next two legs the Elite front-runners stayed as they were. However, the last beat and final run for the line saw a battle emerging for second place.Duelwas catching us up.

Having been informed that a weight advantage would not necessarily improve an Elite’s performance, we were baffled as to howDuelwas making such considerable gains up-wind. Our three/four boat length advantage had soon vanished and once level, battle commenced. Our navigator and crewman Mike was taken back to Race Seven, Valencia.

Tactics now turned to the final run, where we hoped our lighter crew could take the advantage and make up lost ground. However, there was now all manner of boats heading for the finish line which would have to be avoided. With too much traffic, and on a port tack, it wasn’t to bePandemonium’sday. We settled for a respectable third place.

The RS Elite has been hailed as a “new, modern?keelboat for the discerning sailor. A classic for the 21st Century.” A lot to live up to certainly, but after only two or three hours onboard I wouldn’t protest. And since discovering the boat was actually conceived for our ‘gentlemen sailors,’ who appreciate comfort and tactical sailing ahead of sheer speed, I’ve decided I like it even more.

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