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Comparison- Rs400 and 59er experience

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Category: Dinghy classes
Forum Name: Dinghy Yarns...
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Printed Date: 30 Nov 20 at 5:08am
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Topic: Comparison- Rs400 and 59er experience
Posted By: damp_freddie
Subject: Comparison- Rs400 and 59er experience
Date Posted: 01 Dec 05 at 9:08pm

This is a little bit of winter time reflection, having had the pleasure of both
boat's company under my quarter end

The purpose of the thread is to look at this from two perspectives of comparison

1) Design - the end user point of view!

2) deciding to buying a new or used RS400 or 59er

I've split it up to avoid the crashes which can happen mid scribble

Seeing that the boats are fully developed OD, and on the market (so despite a rumour of 59er getting a trap  which I'll come to) this thread is really a 'yarn' about sailing experience rather than talking about what is, could or should be under development- glad to see a Devel class vs OD raging as i write

Posted By: damp_freddie
Date Posted: 01 Dec 05 at 9:12pm
Up front I will say that both boats are well produced and I like them.

First impressions.

The RS 400 had been eating into other classes like the 505, tasar, Fireball and of
course it's ancestor the Merlin Rocket. I reckoned it was about time to get a sail in one,  despite the rather hefty new price tag putting me off impulse purchase.

Coincidence was that at clubs I was a member at and those I visited, the 400 became THE one design boat above all else.

On the water they looked nice - well finished package with a good range of flash colours. Broad too and only seeming a handful in gusty 22 knts plus.

But actually handling the boat was a surprise. It was amazingly heavy to lugg around
the dinghy park.

 From then on I felt it was like a small yacht in the way it generally is to sail. Which suited me as I'm one of the very few folk going TO dinghies FROM yachts  and sportsboats.

Pretty user friendly to crew with most controls being fine but the thwart
lead trio all seemed a bit friction bound - or maybe the problem was not enough purchase?

Helming, having moved from bigger stuff, was a pleasure because
 the weather helm tuned in nicely.  In it's movement in the water
and pinching to depower it felt like a yacht!

Posted By: damp_freddie
Date Posted: 01 Dec 05 at 9:14pm
The 59er had been a boat with many rumours as the initial '39er' project name tag.

Having owned a tasar previously and sailed a B14 a couple of times I expect a light boat,
but was still amazed. The mast was feather weight and the boat which is a fair
 old chunk of 4,7 m by 2 m FRP , was actually lighter than a rigged tasar.

In the flesh it is more pleasing on the eye than the photos on the web which
 don't allow your eye  to follow it's hull and 'wing' deck flare.
It is pretty space age looking- I am still getting used to the almost
 'garish' appearance of the 49er. So looks wise it has plus or minus
 points in comparison to the 400. "eye of beholder" nuff said.

Those of you from I14, tasar, B14, RS300 etc etc will be used to a boat
 which wants to sail and has 'dynamic stability' rather than being
particularly stable while sitting still. Treating the boat like a windsurfer
 coming off the beach was the right thing until the dagger
was down- this was the first quibble- damn hard to get the foils down!

The boat felt very lightly driven and made very little wake on first sail in a cold 16
- 18knts with some bigger gusts.

Posted By: damp_freddie
Date Posted: 01 Dec 05 at 9:53pm
Style of sailing the two

The two boats are very obviously different when you look beyond 'two man, hike out, assymetric'  written on the box so to speak.

Firstly is the hiking style. Personally I didn't like the straps in the 400 being
 lead to the centre at a diagonal for the helm. This made it awkward for me
 to vary my poisition and style of hiking and I was tempted to have
them very slack. Crew hiking varies from fairly chilled out straight leg,
through 'usual' dinghy hike to full on Soling hike style!

The hike style on the 59er is different and has been thought about a lot.
It is aimed at being straight leg with a minimum body below gunwhale
 end result. This allows for fast corrective movements and an allegedly
 far more ergonomic and fatigue free ride once you get trained to it. No doubt
some laser sailors will have something to say

For comparision let us take 16knts of breeze so both boats will be
 planing down wind at a pace and requiring depowering and 'active'
helming to keep them on their feet. In the 9er this was the bottom end
of my windy day, the other day I did was light stuff below 7.5 knts of wind.

The first point kind of preceeds the above line- the 59er will be
planing nicely upwind  - so in theory it can go as fast as the power you
can resist will drive you. In practice you are of course powered for the lulls,
and handling the gusts with some degree of inefficiency. In combination with
 the resistance of hitting waves, things conspire to slow you from theory.
But quite likely you will be doing 7 knts or more in the 9er with very little

Posted By: damp_freddie
Date Posted: 01 Dec 05 at 9:55pm

Upwind when the gusts hit, the 400 responds nicely to some helm luffing the boat up for the shift in  apparent wind and then a little higher to depower further if needed.
 When a big gust is spotted main is twisted a little and
kicker-cunningham can be applied followed by a concerted big hike out.

When you turn the corner in the 400 the hoist is panic free and the LDC
boat ploughs a furrow before popping up on the plane and making
healthy progress. In this weight of wind the boat probably does
around 12 knts and digs a bit of apparent wind. In gusts you need to dump
the main in order to steer low.

In the Bethwaite-Ovington craft, you are already planing when you get to
the windward mark, and the waves disappear ever faster under
 you before you hoist.  Now think about "engage afterburn" and you have an
idea that the big kite kicks in like rocket propulsion.

An assertive hike and trimm get things settled down followed by a progressive
use of apparent wind. The 9er will be doing near wind speed and probably exceed
wind speed if you happen upon 18knts of puff. Hence sheet loads are a lot lighter
than on the 400. A lot more time is spent keeping the boat under the rig
and concentrating on everything being fast and smooth than on the 400 IMExp.

As I sat trimming the kite or helming with a relaxed straight leg hike in the - 59er
 I wondered-
"this is legal, but is it decent to be doing this performance  without twin trapezes and many years of high level experience in 'skiffs'?"

Gybing and tacking both boats is usually stress free if you choose your moments
and get the main across smoothly without messing up tiller coordination. The
400 does seem to roll a bit more.

Hardening up the 400 is staight forward and it can be 'handbrake turned'
at the leeward mark- you will only swim in the 59er in this breeze. A smooth
graceful harden up is needed- keeping boat on the plane - by using helm followed
 by sheet followed by helm and so on... to keep the sheet loads low and the boat
going fast.

Posted By: damp_freddie
Date Posted: 01 Dec 05 at 10:14pm
Upwind the 59er was not remarkable, and that is the very remarkable thing about it.

We had circa 170kg lard and hiking was not extreme. The boat just sits and sails with an armful of main dumped here and there. In the abscence of a race fleet it
was positively dull to crew because work is taken away by it having a self tacking
 jib. Crew main sheeting doesn't seem to work because of the simple coordination of  one legnth sheet first then a push on the helm if more depowering is required.

 If you are caught out the boat  will 'stagger' like you see I14s etc,
 screwing into the wind and making for a full stall. For really big blocks of
the puffy stuff, a load more main and a tad of jib can be blown out to ride it
low and super fast.

There is little weather helm on the 9er but in the 400 there is loads of it there,
 reassuring the erstwhile yacht helmsman in me. The bowspritted 'Merlin' trucks up wind like it's predecessors. Very satisfying to helm or crew, but you do work for a living.

Posted By: les5269
Date Posted: 01 Dec 05 at 10:20pm
Hi Damp-Freddie it must have been quite an experience for you to have to post 6!! posts on your own topic!  Maybe we could get others involved

49er 531 & 5000 5025 and a mirror(now gone to mirror heaven)!" rel="nofollow - Grafham water Sailing Club The greatest inland sailing in the country

Posted By: Offshoretiger
Date Posted: 01 Dec 05 at 10:54pm

has he finished yet?


...yesterday I couldnt spell I are one!......

Posted By: Bumble
Date Posted: 02 Dec 05 at 8:43am

Strikes me Damp Freddie is looking for a new way to point out how good he thinks the 59er is.

why not start a 'what does anyone think of the 59er thread'.......again.!!!!!

Posted By: damp_freddie
Date Posted: 02 Dec 05 at 12:56pm

Continuing a rant for those who are interested over the winter in boat
 design, perfomance and comparison- not just the skim readers.

SO both boats have virtues and are equally user freindly in my

Pros and cons.-400

The 400 has a well established fleet, and I remember
it exploding in the 90s. It caught excellent sailors from boats
like the 505 and fireball as a new fun type of sailing with an
'out of the box' OD package- running costs but no hidden
upgrades as with 505 etc (carbon rigs now approved!)

At club level it was within reach of the skills of those
adults coming out of the RYA schooling yet provided enough
challenge for international qauilty sailors to get into the boat.
 A real strong point was that fleets developed at club level
 and that the boat was competitive enough on PY for mixed racing.
In particular conditions the better 400s pin the L4000s on PY.

One attraction which I was told by a former 505 sailor( expert!)
was the 'down wind tacking battles which add a tactical element to
winward-leewards and the run on any 'round the nav bouys' club

A strong class association with manufacturer support has lead
to a competitive and stable fleet, and even had the boat used in
high level invitationals like the endeavor trophy.

Posted By: lozza
Date Posted: 02 Dec 05 at 1:31pm

505's haven't approved carbon spars, there was alot of R&D on the topic but the current cost of carbon makes it uneconomical.

Life's a reach, then you gybe

Posted By: Isis
Date Posted: 02 Dec 05 at 1:53pm

is this Mr Freddy looking for a career with a certain magazine?

I have no particular interest in either class but it still made for an interesting read, so im sure it will be apreciated, thanks.


Posted By: Offshoretiger
Date Posted: 02 Dec 05 at 3:43pm

Wait, he hasnt done pros and cons of the 59er yet.....

...yesterday I couldnt spell I are one!......

Posted By: damp_freddie
Date Posted: 02 Dec 05 at 6:44pm
Originally posted by Isis

is this Mr Freddy looking for a career with a certain magazine?

I have no particular interest in either class but it still made for an interesting read, so im sure it will be apreciated, thanks.

With english as bad as mine and a kknackered laptop keyboard adding to the bda splelling -  I doubt.!!

Hope you liked it - intended at least as a cure for insomnia on these bloody long winter nights. Maybe someone else could do a comparison , i14 49er, laser- phantom etc

Posted By: damp_freddie
Date Posted: 02 Dec 05 at 6:51pm


The cons would be that it is as it feels- a  traditional
heavy displacement hull upwind and a boat which needs a
blow to get the grinn factor really going down hill.

In light wind it does penalise 160kg plus but equally it rewards
"lard with Legs" in the heavy. Light airs is a lot about
local knowledge, strategy,  and lady  luck as well as the usual heel and
roll technique. It is the 4knt-8knt margin that weight of we
heavies is really a pain. The boat is heavy and it is noticeable
that light crews are faster- at club level at least.

Also lugging the things about on the hard- damn heavy and the
last injury I remember in sailing was in my back after slipping
with one up DBSCs gravel banks at an open. 

Posted By: damp_freddie
Date Posted: 02 Dec 05 at 7:46pm

59er Pros and Cons

Well the first point is the double edged sword, or the two
sides of the coin. It's stregnth is perhaps a weakness to
me and other UK -EU sailors.

The boat  deserves 'skiff' as its' "file under" in the
great library of sailing.

The draw back here is whereas this style of sailing may be the
bread and butter of Sydney Harbour, it is mannifest here
really in more recent years as the new breed of 'higher performance' SMODs
and we just ain't used to it.

Ok we have had I14s, B14s and 18ft skiffs for a long time now,
but your average sailor from the 70s or 80s learning grounds
started in a wayfarer, then sailed a 420, moving to 505s or fireballs
later in life. Or like me you came from keel boats fed up with
the marina bills and dubious availability of 5 crew.

SO back to the boat. It produces litte weather helm and if it does
then you have got things wrong and are screwing up into the wind.
The feel upwind is neutral- you keep the flow attached and 'engage'
rudder for quick adjustments to direction. Off wind there is more feel
of lee helm to tell you you have too much main out or kite in, but this
is once again often too late and the boat will stagger or flip just after
you get big load on the helm.

A big bad on my trips out on the 9er offering is that they were 'jollies'
and not in a race or even in company of many boats. So up wind it was almost
 'dull' to helm. As the beach approached or an older design disappeared behind
us it did feel fast and the harden up was fun. The ease of sailing should make it a very tactical fleet boat if it find's it's feet as a class or in 'higher
performance' sailing...that is over just being able to both trapeze and manoevre the boat on other competitors.

Posted By: carshalton fc
Date Posted: 02 Dec 05 at 8:40pm
do u always reaply to your own messages?

International 14 1503

Posted By: damp_freddie
Date Posted: 02 Dec 05 at 11:45pm

no. It is a long rant, split into bitesize insomnia pills. The site crashes.


 do you always skim read threads or are you used to shallow waters ?


Posted By: damp_freddie
Date Posted: 02 Dec 05 at 11:53pm

Another 59er draw back isthe pay load. From my point of view and my two lighter owners who gave me a test sail, it was just what Dr ordered. It felt 'sit on' hike in 16 knts of puff with 170kg all up. Minimum class weight is 150.

Are there really enough ex second row props like me out there ? Well at least those who don't want trapeze?


The 400 kind of answers this- many many people moved out of the 505 to join a new, strict OD production boat at the time a new 5-0 was around two to three grand (UK GBP) more than the LDC offering.

If a class gives something that captures imagination then it can gain a big following

Posted By: damp_freddie
Date Posted: 02 Dec 05 at 11:56pm

Any conclusions?


Well you gotta ask yourself two questions


who am  I going to race against




What is progress in terms of design and performance?



 If you got this far try counting sheep instead ....but if you must read on skip the top half of the next page---it's only Bubble trying to be funny.

Posted By: Bumble
Date Posted: 03 Dec 05 at 6:35am
Originally posted by damp_freddie

do you always skim read threads or are you used to shallow waters ?

Does anyone out there know what freddie means by skim reading?

Posted By: Bumble
Date Posted: 03 Dec 05 at 6:37am

I don't know Bumble but it does seem a bit odd how he answers his own posts.

Posted By: Bumble
Date Posted: 03 Dec 05 at 6:38am
Thats a great point Bumble........ maybe he needs to tell everyone about the 59er so much that he can't sleep.

Posted By: Bumble
Date Posted: 03 Dec 05 at 6:39am
Hey, thats not fair Bumble. I think you are just skim reading these posts.

Posted By: damp_freddie
Date Posted: 03 Dec 05 at 3:16pm
Originally posted by damp_freddie

no. It is a long rant, split into bitesize insomnia pills. The site crashes.


 do you always skim read threads or are you used to shallow waters ?


do pay attention bumble, I'm not actually replying to my own entries, but creating a read for people who maybe have something to contribute

 the site crashes if you do long blurbs. This is the yarns section, not your usual 'gnats attention span' thread

Posted By: damp_freddie
Date Posted: 03 Dec 05 at 3:35pm
What other cons and Pro's are there in the 59er?

It is definetly an evolution in hull and rig from the 49er. The hull has
 a yet better drag curve and the rig is a one piece with the best
response of all the bethwaite craft so far. This allows for the
generous sail area, which is suitably flat for the rapid progress
the boat makes.

Ok so what are the numbers? Having had a glimpse of the polars,
it is of course a light wind blinder, but as I sailed it in both
light and 16 knts I don't see the issue at above 160kg all up.
In the light? Wait for it- wait for it

Up hill, wind speed 6,7- boat speed 6,1. Off wind speed app 7
boat speed 9. Recently quoted as being the fastest boat on the
water in Hong Kong one light day, and that included 40 footers.

Most likely you will not have a decent fleet number for a while.

This is a shame and a big draw back

Posted By: Bumble
Date Posted: 03 Dec 05 at 3:59pm

No... Im just pullin your leg mr damp.

Nice review..... Ill add my 2peneth when I get a min. If Im up all night I might do Lark vs Scorp as those are my old 2.


Posted By: damp_freddie
Date Posted: 03 Dec 05 at 4:16pm
59er or the 400?

If you have a fleet of 400s in
your club or area, then it offers good sailing, with some
 stregnth required, and a nationals second to not many.

 If however , at your club, you have a mix of L4000s, RS800s
B14s etc ie tru high performance craft then you will be able to
mix it with these boats with any crew who has crewed a dinghy in
races with a kite, or even just a yacht spinnaker
 trimmer who is a bit nimble for their size.

It will be a very tactical boat because of the ease of
actually sailing it,   which means even small fleets will
be engaging, or while in competition with other types of boats
the focus can be on tactics rather than just handling and
outright speed.

Also on smaller lakes or confined waters the 59er will offer
lightning fast tacks, hoist and drops in comparison to
twin trap or the B14 (bagged kite, not chute)

As I said in my experience the RS400 offers close,
tactical winward leewards and a circuit which is
hard to find better.

Posted By: tgruitt
Date Posted: 03 Dec 05 at 4:20pm
59er because 400's are complete dogs to sail, so there!

Needs to sail more...

Posted By: damp_freddie
Date Posted: 03 Dec 05 at 4:24pm
yes, yes bumble- the other ones a campanologist

Posted By: damp_freddie
Date Posted: 03 Dec 05 at 4:27pm
Originally posted by tgruitt

59er because 400's are complete dogs to sail, so there!

good job in the cherub BTW!

You a light weight peron though?

I wouldn't say the 400 is a dog, just an old fashioned design and build with a pole stuck on the front. Good OD racing.

Posted By: damp_freddie
Date Posted: 03 Dec 05 at 4:38pm
Look , No trapeze!

The issue of top competition boats having a need,
expectation and destiny to have trapezes is codswallup.

If this were true the 400 would never have pulled

people away from the likes of 505s (see L&LSC) or Iso's
, fireballs etc. to become such a big new class with
high quality sailors choosing it.

As for high performance craft, which plane "round the
clock" there have been hike out boats since the 60s which
do this - namely NS14 and the productised tasar. Later on
JB spotted a gap for the b14, which is OVER 20 years old
now (god, time flies!!)

Actually, the 59er mast will not support a trapeze-
it has been designed  down to a sub 10kg bare spar without
 the need forextra stiffness and compression resistance
needed for a trapp'ed up boat. So it stands as a pretty
unique non  winged hike out skiff.

Also the boat was probably never
thought of having big production numbers, so it is a
testimony to Ovington and Selden to get the mast into
production at a reasonable cost from the drawing board
down unda.

Posted By: Bumble
Date Posted: 03 Dec 05 at 5:10pm

I can't comment on the 59er as Ive never sailed one, so I feel abit left out on this thread. But I can confirm that the 400 is NOT a 'dog' to just need to be agressive on the bearing away (much more than Im used, and definately more than Cherubs).

The 400 in my mind fills the Merlins weak spots admirably and deserves its position as the number one heavy weight SMOD hike out boat of the last 10 years.

Posted By: les5269
Date Posted: 03 Dec 05 at 5:15pm

Bumble your spoiling Damp-Freddies record breaking thread run!He was trying for xxxx pages of only his posts

49er 531 & 5000 5025 and a mirror(now gone to mirror heaven)!" rel="nofollow - Grafham water Sailing Club The greatest inland sailing in the country

Posted By: tgruitt
Date Posted: 03 Dec 05 at 5:57pm

Originally posted by damp_freddie

Originally posted by tgruitt

59er because 400's are complete dogs to sail, so there!

good job in the cherub BTW!

You a light weight peron though?

I wouldn't say the 400 is a dog, just an old fashioned design and build with a pole stuck on the front. Good OD racing.


Not lightweight, about 12 stone actually!

I usually crew a Cheub and a Merlin and after sailing the RS400 I am glad I sail a Merlin, the 400 is no where near as good as a merlin. Anyway i digress. 59ers are good fun and make me smile, 400's make me grimace due to rubbishly painful decks and stupid jib sheets that are behind you when you tack! Who designed that!

Needs to sail more...

Posted By: CurlyBen
Date Posted: 03 Dec 05 at 6:08pm
I thought they were bringing out a conversion kit to add trapezes to the 59er? I doubt that will include a new mast!

RS800 GBR848
Weston SC

Posted By: Calum_Reid
Date Posted: 03 Dec 05 at 8:20pm
Having sailed both boats. i think they are both very nice boats to sail. I dont see what tgruitt is saying at all the 400 is a very comfotable boat to hike out of and the jib sheets being behind you is easy enough to get used to infact i dont understand why other boats arent like that its easier! A well set up 400 is an absolute dream to sail. does nothing wrong helm is completeley light (my helm regularly let go off it to prove this). One point mr damp you say you were feathering it in the gust that is not the fastest way to sail them at all! keeping it flat and playing the main lots is by far the fastest!
The 59er is certainly a little livelier but it is a skiff! I have sailed it in light and windy (and gusty conditions) and i think it wld provide good racing in a fleet but not as close as the 400 which has some of the best sailing arround.


Posted By: damp_freddie
Date Posted: 05 Dec 05 at 11:05pm
Originally posted by CurlyBen

I thought they were bringing out a conversion kit to add trapezes to the 59er? I doubt that will include a new mast!

I think the mast really isn't up for it and I have it on very good aithority. It won't take the side-bend or compression.

The 400 shows that there is a lively market for good sailors to go hike out, and even come off the wire into the class.

As for comfort..hmm...59er is 'straight leg' which  takes a bit of getting acclimatised to in the quadraceps dept.

comfy? ever sailed a tasar? the 400 was a bit sub optimal to my posterior, and the rear straps did my head in.

Posted By: damp_freddie
Date Posted: 05 Dec 05 at 11:17pm
Hi Calum-

I can actually say I did a travellors just along the road from you at DBSC c1999-2000. Bit funny in wind agin'  tide ISTR and some nasty hard bits just under the surface! But lovely views in your area and some top sailors.

Anyway, it was the biggest travellor I had been at, sailing at L&Lsc's 'muddy puddle' before. Some good teams headed up, others played out low and fast.

It is (despite your other observation on a different thread) a displacement boat up wind and will have good VMG taking the apparent lift rather than pushing water, or going lower, out of the wave form to plane. All this is no bad thing in a well produced OD.

I won a club race with some chap who had a top ten overall as crew at the previous years nat's and he just hiked like a soling and told me to pinch in the gusts. We trucked the other 400s.

Actually a more relevant-interesting comparison would be RS400 to MRX.

any chat on that one?

Posted By: Calum_Reid
Date Posted: 06 Dec 05 at 4:34pm
It all depends where your sailing. Inland pinch like mad. In waves DONT! DBSC -or Dalgrotty as i know it is a nice enough place to sail but not a patch on where we sail just along the road. As all the cherub and moth sailors will tell you in september. After they have the best sailing of there life at the mighty Largo Bay SC.


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